In the Virginia General Assembly, there is a well-funded and powerful lobby, wireless cell carriers, and they are looking to fundamentally change the face of our hometown in the name of “better coverage”. Imagine for a moment that you are leaving to go to work on a typical spring morning, enjoying a clear view of your street and town as you pull out and head to the office through town and the familiar sight of Middleburg. After a long day on the job you return home that evening only to find a new 40-foot cell tower on what that morning was the street in front of your home and others towers are dotted along the sidewalks of downtown Middleburg. You had absolutely no idea this was going to happen, you were given no notice, no ability to provide comments to the town council about your concerns with these tower left with no right of appeal, and the town government was just as powerless as you to stop it or even affect it. This could soon be a reality. Proposed legislation financed by wireless cellular providers supports the uninhibited ability to build these towers in our right of ways and public spaces, and we have no say in the matter. The cellular industry claims this is for the customer’s – that’s you – convenience.
Fifth Generation Cellular, simply known as 5G, is coming, but before it can work wireless providers have to install special 5G towers, lots of 5G towers. They seek to do so without having to deal with the “burden” of local rules, so they are spending millions and lobbying for statewide legislation that allows them to put towers in the public right of way with virtually no government review – something no other industry nor citizen has. Moreover, this legislation strips citizens of their right to know and prevent such an eyesore from being erected in front of their home, business or public space, including historic downtown or scenic areas. If passed these bills also allow the cell industry to completely bypass any ordinances on the books, our hard-working Planning Commission, us on the Town Council, and most importantly the citizen input process through public hearings. This is not transparency, it is anything but, and is simply wrong.
We all want reliable high-speed coverage at relatively reasonable rates and cell towers are the only way this service can be delivered, but at what cost to our way of life. We on the town council and all local governments understand this reality. Local government simply wants to ensure its done in a prudent, transparent and careful manner so that towers are placed appropriately. Placement should account for local conditions such as views, safety, historic districts, business and citizen impacts. Our local ordinances are designed to do exactly that – ensure progress comes in a way that protects our way of life. More importantly, we want to protect your right as residents to offer input on how these towers impact all our lives, just as you have in all land use and zoning matters. This legislation removes all of that!
By way of example, under this legislation, a wireless cell provider can place a 50-foot cell tower on the public sidewalk on main street in front of the Red Fox, the Post Office, or the Methodist Church, and even your home and we could do nothing to stop it.
This fight is not over. The Middleburg Town Council is doing everything we can to push back against these bills. In January, we unanimously voted on a resolution opposing their passage and have sent letters to US Senators Tim Caine and Mark Warner voicing our concerns. We ask that every member of our community make your voices heard too by writing to the members of the Virginia Senate, House of Delegates and to our new Governor, Ralph Northam urging him to veto any bill that may pass. Even with ‘NO’ votes from our state representatives, Senator Jill Vogel and Delegate Wendy Gooditis, both bills have passed their houses and are moving to the next step which is coming in the next two weeks. To make this easy, there are draft opposition letters and an email list which I can provide that will get your message to the right hands, quickly. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for this information and I will help you get your voice out to the right elected officials. Thank you for helping protect our town and ensure we maintain true transparency and local government control of our future.