Sunday, January 29, 2023

New communications tower to improve cellular coverage along Merrimac Trail

On the left is the a depiction of ow T-Mobile's coverage will look once the tower is constructed, with darker green meaning on a stronger signal. On the right is T-Mobile's current service, with a gap in stronger signals in the area surrounding the now-approved tower. (WYDaily/ Courtesy York County)
On the left is the a depiction of ow T-Mobile’s coverage will look once the tower is constructed, with darker green meaning on a stronger signal. On the right is T-Mobile’s current service, with a gap in stronger signals in the area surrounding the now-approved tower. (WYDaily/ Courtesy York County)

YORK — T-Mobile customers may soon have a stronger cellular signal in Greater Williamsburg.

The service provider received approval to construct a 170-foot telecommunications tower on a vacant lot on Merrimac Trail, less than a mile south of Route 199.

The tower will help fill a gap in T-Mobile’s coverage, according to documents considered by York County’s Board of Supervisors. The board voted 3-1 Tuesday to approve the proposal for the tower.

Residents of the Country Club Acres, Carver Gardens and Callahan Village can expect better cellular coverage on the T-Mobile network, according to PI Tower Development, who submitted the applicant on behalf of T-Mobile.

Nearby businesses, including Anheuser-Busch and the Williamsburg Country Club, should also see better service.

The gap in T-Mobile’s coverage exists between three other towers in the area — a monopole located at Exit 243B on Interstate 64, a self-support tower on Water Country Boulevard and a flagpole at the James City County government offices near Kingsmill.

“The proposed tower will achieve the coverage objective by connecting the propagation rings of these three sites, which will essentially close the hole,” the application said.

Up to three other service providers will also be able to use the tower.

County Administrator Neil Morgan said in a memo to the board that the tower addresses a need for better coverage of customers in the area. He also said, despite its height, the tower will not be visually obtrusive.

The applicant conducted a balloon test to visualize the tower's impact. A digital rendering shows what the tower will look like once constructed. (WYDaily/ Courtesy York County and BC Architects Engineers)
The applicant conducted a balloon test to visualize the tower’s impact. A digital rendering shows what the tower will look like once constructed. (WYDaily/ Courtesy York County and BC Architects Engineers)

Attorney Lisa Murphy spoke on behalf of T-Mobile and said the need for the tower was driven by an increase in mobile data usage.

“You name it, people do it on their phones,” Murphy said. “It’s very difficult to find a location for a site, and in this case I think they’ve done a good job finding a parcel that’s just big enough for a tower and will have a limited visual impact.”

Murphy told WYDaily construction of the tower is expected to begin in October with completion by the end of the year. She added that the project would still need to go through the site plan process and a construction permit will need to be obtained.

The .38-acre wooded property is vacant and sits next to a BP gas station. The tower will be 170 feet tall with a 5-foot lightning rod. County staff requested the applicant design the antennae array to be flush to the tower to reduce visibility.

Tim Cross, the county’s deputy director of planning and development services,  told the board his office hasn’t received any complaints about the tower from nearby residents.

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