Taylor rehab may include 4G towers
Posted: December 7, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The former Taylor Hotel building soon might be playing an important role for modern telecommunications in downtown Winchester.
With some reservations, the Winchester Board of Architectural Review (BAR) voted 7-0 to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the installation of telecommunications antennas on the building’s seven-story flytower on Indian Alley.
Shenandoah Personal Communications LLC, the arm of Shentel that handles wireless service for Sprint, still needs to obtain a conditional-use permit to move forward with the project. The Planning Commission will review a permit request sometime next year, with City Council making the final decision thereafter.
The building at 119-129 N. Loudoun St. is owned by the Winchester Economic Development Authority. It would lease the space for the antennas to Shentel.
Lynn Koerner, a site acquisition contractor for Shentel, told board members that the antennas are needed for the company to provide 4G service downtown. Other locations were surveyed but either wouldn’t work or an agreement couldn’t be reached with the building owner.
The company’s plan is to install six antennas on the building — two each on two corners, and one each on the remaining corners — with the tops of the units reaching about 84 feet above the ground, a few feet below the roof line. The antennas, mounts and exposed connecting cable would be painted to match the building’s brick.
The company’s original plan was to place the equipment on the roof. But Koerner said that after reviewing the plans, State Historic Preservation Office officials said the face of the building was the best option.
“The state said putting them on top takes away from the view of the building,” he said. “They said if we put them on the side and paint them to match, they blend in.”
Koerner said similar camouflaged antennas are installed on the side of Valley Health’s Winchester Rehab Center at 333 W. Cork St. and are largely unnoticeable.
Most BAR members, however, seemed to think the roof was a preferable spot.
Aaron Grisdale, the city’s zoning and inspections director, told members that the Federal Communications Commission encourages multiple telecommunications antennas to be placed in the same location, where possible.
Therefore, other companies could seek approval to install more on the Taylor Hotel in the future. Grisdale said that in each case, City Council would make the final decision over whether to permit the devices.
“I have concerns that because of changes in technology or additional carriers,” BAR Chairman Tom Rockwood said, “this building will become festooned with this stuff.”
When asked what he thought would happen if the BAR decided that the top of the building was the best place for the antenna, Koerner said he thought state officials would not approve the site.
Crews began the first phase of the Taylor Hotel redevelopment project last month, starting demolition of the middle portion of the building and stabilization of the remaining sections. That work is to be completed in February.
At that point, work to prepare the front and rear sections for occupancy is to begin and is expected to last until December 2013.
The front part of the structure — the historic old hotel building — is to include a restaurant with basement pub and five apartments. The flytower is expected to have retail space on the ground level and either an indoor climbing facility or future condominiums on the top six floors.
In between the remaining sections of the building, a grassy pavilion and a nine-bay farmers market are planned.
Board members also:
Voted 7-0 to approve a certificate of appropriateness for removal of an aluminum front awning and aluminum wrapping for the property at 414 S. Cameron St.
Voted 6-0 with one abstention to approve a certificate of appropriateness for facade improvements for the property at 24-28 E. Piccadilly St. Don Crigler abstained because of professional ties to the project.
Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Tom Rockwood and board members Tim Bandyke, Don Crigler, Patricia Jackson, Bob Pinner, Peter Serafin and Kevin Walker.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com