The Botetourt Planning Commission recommended 4-1 that the Board of Supervisors approve a request for a special exceptions permit (SEP) for a new cell tower north of Fincastle, but not without some conditions.

One of those is that the applicant get a geological report that determines if the tower site will have a negative effect on a spring that is used by residents of the area where the tower is to be built.

The tower site is on property owned by Donald L. Meredith. Cingular Wireless/AT&T Wireless requested a SEP for the tower site in an effort to close a “hole” in its cellular service area between Fincastle and Eagle Rock.

Meredith asked for the SEP in an Agricultural (A-1) Use District  to construct a proposed 195-foot, single pole telecommunications (cell) tower and an access road. The lease area is on a 97-acre parcel in the Fincastle Magisterial District and is located off of West Wind Road (Rt. 635), approximately .27 miles southwest of its intersection with Mary Alice Road (Rt. 681) north of Fincastle.

Planner Steve Kidd was the only planner who voted against the recommendation because of concerns that were raised by neighbors, according to Zoning Administrator Chuck Supan.

Five neighbors spoke during the planners’ public hearing on the SEP request Monday night. They expressed concerns about the viewshed, their watershed because of concerns about a spring a lot of folks use that’s below the tower site, blasting that may be required, noise from a backup generator, and potential harm from radiation from the cell tower.

One neighbor argued allowing the cell tower was not in compliance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Supan said the county’s consultant made several recommendations about the SEP, which the planners agreed to in their recommendation.

One was that the cellular company allow no more than three other cell companies to co-locate antennas on the tower and that they all be flush mounted on a monopole that is not reflective.

Cingular will also have to provide an FFA report that the tower does not have to be lighted.

The planners also asked for the geological report about the spring.

The planners sent their recommendation on to the supervisors despite asking for the geological report that will not be ready before next week’s Board of Supervisors public hearing on the SEP request.

Supan said the supervisors can still take public comments on the SEP request, then can approve or deny the request or wait for the geological report before making a decision.

The planners recommended unanimously that the supervisors grant a rezoning request by Larry W. and Rebecca T. Thompson. They want to rezone 2.334 acres from a Forest Conservation (FC) Use District to a Rural Residential (RR) Use District and 2.265 acres from an Agricultural–Rural Residential (AR) Use District to a Rural Residential (RR) Use District to create one new lot and to re-adjust the boundary lines of an existing lot on property located on Purgatory Mountain Road (Rt. F054).

The property is in the Buchanan Magisterial District approximately 1 mile southwest of Interstate 81, Exit 168 near Buchanan.

The supervisors will hold their public hearings on the requests at their December 22 meeting at 6 p.m. at Greenfield Education and Training Center.