AT&T proposes to build a 100 foot high bell tower that would house a cell phone tower on the grounds of a small church at the corner of Westmoreland Street and Kirby Road.
The proposal marks the third time in as many years that AT&T has tried to build cell tower to serve the area generally along Kirby Road from Old Dominion to Great Falls. A very vocal group of citizens defeated a proposal to put the tower on the grounds of Longfellow Middle School last fall.
“They have been looking for two years," Mark Zetts, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee of the McLean Citizens Association, told the MCA Wednesday night. "The area needs coverage so they are coming back with this proposal.”
AT&T has reached an agreement with the New Life Christian Church to build a 100 foot tall church bell tower housing the cell tower behind the church's sign at the corner of Westmoreland Street and Kirby Road.
"We saw this as a service because there are a lot of dead zones here," said Dwaine Darrah, pastor of New Life. "There are huge amounts of dead zones here. We could use a little more cell tower coverage. My phone will die 300 feet" from the church, he said.
When AT&T approached the church, Darrah said he told them, "This is McLean so it has to be classy. We want it to be striking but fit in."
Ralph Friend, a church member and the Facilities Manager, said "It will look just like a church bell tower. . . I think people would not even notice it.We want to be a good neighbor . . . if you have a dead spot that makes a difference. We are trying to help the neighbors get better service."
AT&T will pay the church $2,000 a month to rent the space for the tower, Darrah said.
William Denk, MCA treasurer, and President of the nearby Elnido Civic Association, said after the MCA meeting, that he opposes the new bell tower.
"A 100 foot tower is completely out of sync with the community. It's just inappropriate," he said. "They have tried to construct a tower before and have done a poor job of notifying the community," he said.
The New Life Christian church came to McLean four years ago when it partnered with the Westmoreland Community Church to share the A-shaped church that was built in 1964. New Life, which is 18 years old, started in Chantilly and now has three congregations --- Chantilly, McLean and Haymarket, Friend said.
"We try to do things with the community," said Friend. The church is very supportive of nearby Longfellow Middle school, he said. They donate backpacks and free meals to children in need.
Next step: Feb. 22. MCA Planning and Zoning Committee holds a public hearing on the proposal.
Why is a cell tower needed? Increasingly folks use their cellphones to receive Internetdata at home. Thus the increasing demand for high-speed data services in residential neighborhoods. Cell phone calls are declining while data use increases.