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August 14, 2017

Long-awaited Casanova tower erected Friday

Photos/Don Del Rosso
The crew begins to place the tower’s third and final section.
I had a pretty good idea we’d see it. It was a work in progress. But, finally we were able to get things in line that made sense and the neighbors were happy.
— Cedar Run District Supervisor Rick Gerhardt
Casanova Tower
• Where: 5348 Casanova Road, just west of the village.

• Height: 140 feet.

• Site: 40 acres zoned agriculture.

• Landowner: Mary Jo Pohzehl.

• Tower owner: Calvert Crossland of Baltimore; company leases a 360-square-foot tower site from Pohzehl family for undisclosed sum and period.

• Purpose: Provide better cell phone and data service around Casanova, where signals range from weak to non-existent.

• Tower space: Four providers, including Verizon Wireless, which could begin providing cell service in 30 to 60 days, according to Calvert Crossland; the company continues to negotiate with New Jersey-based Omnipoint Communications, which provides broadband internet service.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Tipping back his head, the Cedar Run District supervisor Friday morning marveled as a crane slowly placed the second of three sections of the 140-foot Casanova telecommunications tower.

“It’s a great day for the Casanova area,” Rick Gerhardt said.

The tower should allow Verizon Wireless and up to three other carriers to provide better cell phone and data service around Casanova, where signals range from weak to non-existent.

“The end result is it’s going to provide some well-needed service to this area,” said Mr. Gerhardt, chairman of the board of supervisors and of Fauquier’s newly established broadband authority.

Tower developer and owner Calvert Crossland of Baltimore, Md., hopes that Verizon will begin providing cell service in 30 to 60 days, Partner Barb Pivec said.

Her company continues to negotiate with New Jersey-based Omnipoint Communications Inc. to provide wireless broadband internet service, Ms. Pivec said.

“I’m hoping they’ll be here within the next 60 days. That would be great.”

Manassas-based Helpcomm Inc. workers arrived at the Casanova Road site at about 6:15 a.m. Friday.

With Billy Posey of Manassas-based Williams Equipment Corp. manipulating the crane’s 170-foot boom, the Helpcomm crew had placed the galvanized steel towers’ three sections in less than two hours.

“I didn’t realize they go up so quick,” Mr. Gerhardt said after workers set the second section. “It’s pretty interesting.”

Virginia Beach-based FCI Towers serves as the project’s general contractor.

A subcontractor, Helpcomm:

• Erected, with the help of Williams Equipment, the tower.

• Buried about 1,600 feet of conduit from Casanova Road to the tower that will contain fiber optic cable to serve cell phone and potential broadband providers.

• Will mount a dozen Verizon Wireless antennae to the tower when they arrive at the site.

• Will install an 8-foot, board-on-board fence and landscaping to help screen the tower compound.

• Will reseed disturbed areas and the grass farm road that serves the tower site.

“We’re a turnkey company — start to finish, from the last antennas on the tower to the last piece of landscaping on the ground,” Vice President and owner Jonathan Bolton explained.

Mr. Bolton called the Casanova tower a “pretty straight-forward project.”

His crew placed the top section of the 24,000-pound tower by about 11:30 a.m.

Workers spent the next 2-1/2 hours assembling, placing and fastening the tower’s approximately 2,000-pound platform.

The last of Helpcomm’s trucks left the site at about 2:50 p.m.

The Casanova tower can accommodate four wireless service providers, with each mounting up to 12 antennae that weigh about 45 pounds apiece.

The tower stands on Mary Jo Pohzehl’s 40-acre family farm along Casanova Road.

Calvert Crossland leases the immediate tower site from the Pohzehls for an undisclosed sum and period.

The farm lies west of the Dale “Chip” Childs’ property, where Verizon proposed a slightly taller tower in 2015.

Fauquier’s zoning ordinance requires special exception approval by the board of supervisors for towers that exceed 80 feet — the “by-right” limit for such structures.

That review process for the Casanova tower proved arduous and, at times, divisive.

Verizon Wireless in 2014 unveiled plans to build a 154-foot tower on the Childs property to address weak coverage in the area. 

But, the proposed tower failed to meet screening requirements, and Verizon failed to adequately consider alternatives, according to the county planning staff, Architectural Review Board, environmental organizations, the county planning commission, some neighbors and a board of supervisors majority.

The planning commission in March 2015 held a public hearing on the proposal. Siding with the opposition, the planners voted, 3-2, to recommend the supervisors deny Verizon’s application. 

The supervisors in May 2015 held a public hearing on the project. A board majority indicated it couldn’t support the application. Verizon requested a postponement of the application but did not withdraw it.

Ms. Pivec took over the project about 15 months ago.

After working closely with citizens and Mr. Gerhardt, Verizon Wireless and Calvert Crossland sought special exception permit approval to construct a 140-foot tower at the Pohzehl property.

Fauquier’s planning commission last October recommended approval. A month later, the supervisors approved the project. No citizens spoke against the special exception application at the planning commission or the supervisors’ public hearings.

“The site had problems initially,” Ms. Pivec said of the Pohzehl property. “But, we were able to redesign it.”

For example, they used the existing farm road rather than constructing a new one to serve the tower.

“The land disturbance for a new road would have been huge.”

Involving the community throughout the process also helped produce a “positive” outcome, she said.

“They know their neighborhood, their community far better than anyone else does,” said Ms. Pivec, who has worked on several other Fauquier tower projects. “It made a big difference spending the time, up front, with people and saying, ‘Is this acceptable? Is this not acceptable?

“If you’re forthcoming with people . . . eventually you end up with a meeting of the minds, where everybody agrees.”

Despite the stir over first tower site, Mr. Gerhardt believed the Pohzehl property had promise and the Casanova area would get a tower.

“I had a pretty good idea we’d see it,” he said. “It was a work in progress; it took a while. But, finally we were able to get things in line that made sense and the neighbors were happy.”

Scott Carter, who lives near Casanova, tracked the project’s up and downs.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” Mr. Carter, 75, said in a telephone interview. “And the county put it off, put it off. And it just sort of dragged on. Your expectations are one thing, and reality is something else.”

While Mr. Carter hopes the tower will mean better Verizon cell phone service for him, he sounds skeptical.

“I’m about a mile and a half away, as the crow flies” from the tower, he said. “It can’t make it any worse. It’s terrible now. I can’t use the cell phone in the house at all.”
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