Resident Questions Kingsmill’s Mobile Cell Tower

January 29th, 2010 by Kim Lenz

The mobile cell tower Kingsmill has had in use for several years – in the center, dwarfing parking lot light standards. (Photo courtesy of Bill Halteman).

At a planning commission meeting earlier this month, Kingsmill resident Bill Halteman told commissioners about a mobile cell tower on Kingsmill property that’s been operating without a proper permit for several years.

Halteman, who is a member of the Kingsmill Wireless Advocacy Group, has been working with the group to find ways to keep AT&T and Verizon from building two camouflaged cell towers on soccer fields in the community. The towers were the center of a contentious court appeal process involving the county, the cell companies, Kingsmill and the board of zoning appeals. A judge ruled in November that the towers could go ahead as planned.

Halteman says he noticed the mobile cell tower sitting in a parking lot near the resort in 2007 and didn’t think much about it. In fall 2009, as the cell tower case came to a close, he started investigating what the tower was doing there, if it was functional and why Kingsmill would need two more cell towers just 3,000 feet away from the mobile device.

Halteman learned the device is called a cell-on-wheels, or COW. They’re generally are used for temporary cell service for events or other functions, and are removed afterwards. Using a mobile cell tower continually isn’t compliant with county code and zoning requirements because it’s sitting in a residential district and isn’t camouflaged.

Halteman contacted the county, and staff told him they couldn’t find a copy of the original temporary permit. Furthermore, they weren’t aware it was still on the property.

County Zoning Administrator Melissa Brown contacted Robin Carson, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, in October to ask her about the matter.

On November 17, Carson sent a letter in response Kingsmill placed the COW at the resort in May 2005 to support “several high profile, corporate and government events at the resort that year,” she wrote. The arrangement, in which AT&T paid $1 a year for the tower to be kept there, was intended to be temporary until new cell towers were constructed, Carson explained in the letter.

Cell service improved, and “tax generating, resort group guests began requiring a level of cellular service as terms of their contract, making approval of the permanent, neighborhood tower application or keeping the COW critical to Kingsmill Resort business,” according to Carson’s letter.

Faced with no permanent solution to their cell reception troubles, “Kingsmill chose to keep the COW in place to benefit the community and maintain the level of cell service required of our tax-paying resort guests, until alternate improved cellular coverage existed,” she wrote. It’s been in continual operation ever since.

The letter concludes, “The resort has had all intentions of removing the COW when alternate cellular service improvements were installed in the area that would maintain or improve the current cell service the COW provides.”

Deputy County Attorney Adam Kinsman says Brown is currently taking the letter under consideration, though as of January 22 no further action had been taken. Kinsman and Planning Director Allen Murphy told commissioners at the meeting that enforcement action is being considered.

Halteman likes the idea of putting a permanent tower where the COW is now, and the wireless group agrees. Currently the group is working to keep the two approved cell towers off the soccer field because it’s a historical site. The parking lot isn’t historical, and residents are already used to seeing a tower there now, he said.

“This [COW tower] is an embarrassment to the county, and it’s there illegally,” said Halteman.

8 Responses to Resident Questions Kingsmill’s Mobile Cell Tower

  1. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Whiney, Whiney, Whiney…

  2. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Colonial Williamsburg has also had one of these units parked and anchored with concrete barrels in the loading dock area of the Williamsburg Inn for years.

  3. Dr. Roth

    January 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Get a life. You must be very bored.

  4. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Kingsmill is in the business of attracting business and political leaders to the resort, resulting in serious tax and economic benefit to James City County and the Kingsmill community.

    If these people cannot have access to wireless communications, they will go elsewhere, and elsewhere will be glad to have them.

    If these people thought this through, they would realize that if they got their way, the conferences and meetings would leave and their homeowner’s associaton dues would double.

    Of course, that would not be their fault either.

  5. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Taxpaying, revenue generating, golf loving guests at the Kingsmill resort are also visitors to area attractions who expect and deserve cell reception when staying here. The tower was a good temporary solution.

  6. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    so let me get this straight…this supposed eyesore and blight on the humanity that is kingsmill has been in place since 2005 sitting out in plain sight and this guy just now noticed it almost 5 years later and further no one else has complained about it either until just now…doesn’t that just pretty much shoot down their entire argument and moaning that’s been going on with regards to the new towers that are going to be camouflaged and placed to actually blend in with the community…as is usually the case with the anti-everything crowd, their hypocrisy knows no bounds…

  7. Anonymous

    January 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    This story does a very good job of explaining the situation and how it came to happen.

    Cell towers are becoming an unnecessary blight on the landscape. The landowner who has a tower on their property can reap upwards of $40,000 a year rent while the property values of all those around and within eyesight go down.

    Ask yourself: If one 50′ COW provides the necessary service, then why are two 120′ towers critically needed to replace it? If this service is so important to the KM Resort business, then why doesn’t KM Resort put in a DAS system or a couple 25′ camouflaged towers similar to what CW has done.

    The problem with cell service is that the major carriers will not work cooperatively and each has to put up its own network of towers and antennas. As more carriers move into our market, the problem only gets worse. If all carriers shared towers and antennas, the number of towers could be reduced dramatically.

    For example, I have a Virgin Mobile pay as you go cell. There is not a single Virgin Mobile antenna or tower in the USA yet my phone works just fine anywhere I would expect and want it to go. This is because Virgin Mobile bought a bucket of minutes on the Sprint network and piggybacks on their network.

    Why can’t Sprint, AT&T, NTelos, Verizon and the other providers pool their resources and both share towers & antennas? Certainly would be more cost effective and could lower consumer costs.

  8. Anonymous

    January 30, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Mr. White needs to see what a real supposedly camouflaged monopine cell tower looks like. There are two in JCC. One is near the entrance to the Greensprings community down Route 5 and another is in the parking lot of the Christian Life Center off Longhill Road. Would Mr. White want either of these within 400 feet of his home? I think not! They’re CAMOUFLAGED! Do they “blend in?”
    The COW (cell-on-wheels) in the Kingsmill parking lot was supposed to be a “temporary” solution to handle cell phone call overload during peak periods when the Kingsmill Conference Center was hosting large conferences. The operative word that Mr. White is missing is TEMPORARY – it’s on wheels so it can be removed after the demand ceases. The temporary permit issued by the County cannot be found. We residents depended upon the County for control and handling of this facility and they failed us.

    Kingsmill does not have a homeowner’s association. The developer is still here. The nine member KCSA Board has five directors APPOINTED by AB InBev and four elected by the residents. Also, the rental income from the cell towers would inure to AB InBev since the towers would be built on its land. The Association dues we pay will not change.
    Revenues to AB InBev from Conference Center, Resort & Spa, or Cell Tower rental fees, will not go into KCSA coffers. The KCSA does not own the land upon which the proposed cell towers are to be built.
    Finally, the dynamics of cell phone reception inside Kingsmill has changed since 2007. New acquisitions by Verizon Wireless and co-location by AT&T on Dominion Virginia power poles along Route 60 has enhanced reception but both carriers persist on filling “gaps” in their networks that their engineers fouled up initially. JCC should take a long and hard look at CURRENT CELL TOWER NEEDS before further impacting residential neighborhoods and damaging a Kingsmill historic artifact site (slave quarters) which is straddled by these two 21st century monstrocities.

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