Article IX – Telecommunications Towers and Facilities
CHAPTER 70 – ZONING
Sec. 70-846. – Purpose and Intent.
The purpose of the Telecommunications Towers and Facilities article of the Zoning Ordinance, hereinafter referred to as “this Article,” is to implement Orange County’s land use and zoning policies regarding telecommunication antenna structures (TASs) and related telecommunications facilities constructed and operated in the county. The secondary purpose is to ensure compliance with applicable federal laws, including the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, rules and interpretations of the FCC, and the Code of Virginia.
The intent of this Article is to:
- Establish clear siting standards, permitting processes, and approval criteria for TASs and related facilities depending on the scale and type of facility;
- Utilize set standards to allow administrative permitting of small-scale TASs and related facilities, such as towers and antennas for the provision of fixed wireless internet, where such facilities have been determined to have relatively low impacts;
- Encourage co-located facilities where suitable towers and/or alternative tower structures exist;
- Avoid unnecessary proliferation of towers by ensuring all towers can accommodate multiple carriers and service providers;
- Ensure towers are sited and designed to minimize impacts on historic resources and viewsheds, or the county’s natural resources;
- Provide for government-owned TASs and facilities, within state and federal law, so as to allow the provision of an adequate, efficient, and reliable public safety communications system, and the provision of high-speed, affordable broadband to underserved citizens;
- Promote consistency with the adopted Comprehensive Plan; and
- Protect the health, safety, convenience, and general welfare of the public.
Sec. 70-847. – Applicability.
- The provisions of this Article shall apply to all property within the jurisdictional limits of Orange County, unless specifically superseded by state or federal law. This Article shall not apply to any property within the jurisdictional limits of the Town of Orange or the Town of Gordonsville.
- Should any provision of state and/or federal law, or any rule or interpretation by the FCC, impose a higher standard or a more restrictive standard than is contained within this Article, that standard shall control. Should any provision of this Article conflict with another section of the Orange County Code of Ordinances, this Article shall control.
Sec. 70-848. – Terms and Definitions.
The following definitions shall apply in the administration of this Article:
Alternative tower structure. A structure, such as a building, water tower, electrical pole, sign, steeple, or canopy, not originally built to support antennas, but to which one or more antennas may be mounted to provide telecommunication services.
Amateur radio. This term refers to the radio communications system used by those with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest, as regulated by the FCC rules and regulation specific to amateur radio.
Antenna. Any apparatus designed and used for the purpose of transmitting and/or receiving electromagnetic waves, including, but not limited to, telephonic, cellular, data, radio, and television communications. This definition shall include “small cell facilities” and “micro-wireless facilities” as defined in the Code of Virginia.
Co-locate. The practice of installing multiple antennas on an existing telecommunication antenna structure or alternative tower structure. Derivations of this term shall have corresponding meanings.
Engineer. A person licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia as a professional engineer.
FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration.
FCC. The Federal Communications Commission.
Fixed wireless internet. A type of internet service whereby the end-user receives access to the internet via a radio, microwave, or other wireless link between two or more fixed points.
Germanna-Wilderness Area. A planning area established in the 2015 amendment of the Orange County Comprehensive Plan, being generally a 14,600-acre area of easternmost Orange County. This definition shall include any future modification of the area boundaries.
Madison Barbour Rural Historic District. A national historic district in western Orange County identified in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, being generally a 32,600-acre area between the Rapidan River, U.S. 15, and portions of the Greene County and Albemarle County lines.
Mature woodlands. An area of forest generally undisturbed by human activity for several decades, where trees are near or at mature height and crown growth.
Telecommunication antenna structure. A vertically-projecting, free-standing structure, also commonly referred to as a tower, which is built specifically to support antennas, or act as an antenna, for the purpose of providing telecommunication services.
Sec. 70-849. – Amateur Radio Antennas.
An amateur radio antenna shall be permitted as an accessory use to any lawful, conforming residential or commercial principal use, subject to the following:
- The antenna shall be subject to Zoning Permit requirements and the minimum setback and yard requirements of the zoning district in which it is to be constructed.
- The total overall height of the antenna and any support structure shall be one-hundred, ninety-nine (199) feet or less.
- There shall be no restriction on the number of support structures for the antenna.
- The applicant shall submit a written certification from a licensed professional engineer that construction of the antenna conforms to reasonable and customary engineering practices.
- The applicant shall provide a valid FCC amateur radio operator’s license.
- The Zoning Administrator may require reasonable screening of the antenna based on visibility from a public right-of-way, the proximity of neighboring properties, and the presence of any nearby historic assets.
Sec. 70-850. – Co-located Telecommunications Antennas.
The placement of a telecommunications antenna on an alternative tower structure, or co-location on an existing telecommunication antenna structure (TAS), shall be permitted as a by-right accessory use in all zoning districts, subject to the following:
- The antenna and any related facilities shall be subject to Zoning Permit requirements pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance, and shall be administratively approved by the Zoning Administrator pursuant to meeting the requirements of this section.
- If the antenna is to be co-located on an existing TAS, a scaled drawing showing the tower, the proposed location and height of the antenna, and the antenna design shall be a required element of the Zoning Permit application. The applicant shall demonstrate that the color and design of the antenna will be consistent with the overall color and design of the TAS.
- If the antenna is to be installed on an alternative tower structure, a scaled drawing of the structure along with the proposed location and height of the antenna, and the antenna design shall be a required element of the Zoning Permit application. The applicant shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Zoning Administrator that the antenna and related facilities will be moderately concealed by either aesthetics, such as with paint or construction materials, or by careful design and placement of the antenna. The Zoning Administrator shall consider the location of the structure within any registered historic district or the designation of the structure on any historic register in determining consistency with this requirement. Any antenna installed on a residential structure, such as a dwelling or garage, for the purpose of providing the owner with fixed wireless internet shall be exempt from the requirements of this subsection.
- The structure to which the antenna is to be attached shall be a lawful, conforming structure, or any existing TAS.
- The antenna shall not add more than twenty (20) feet to the height of the structure or TAS to which it is being attached, regardless of maximum height requirements of the underlying zoning district.
- The antenna shall not necessitate any new lighting, or additional lighting if the structure already contains lighting, pursuant to FAA or other requirements.
- Commercial advertising related to any antenna permitted pursuant to this section shall be prohibited.
- Microwave dishes shall not exceed six (6) feet in diameter.
Sec. 70-851. – Administratively-Approved Telecommunications Towers and Facilities.
The construction of a telecommunication antenna structure (TAS) and any related ground equipment may be administratively-approved by the Zoning Administrator pursuant to meeting the requirements of this section. All TASs approved pursuant to this section shall be considered principal uses for the purpose of determining minimum setbacks and yards.
- Maximum height. The total maximum height of a TAS eligible for administrative approval shall not exceed one-hundred (100) feet in all zoning districts. These maximum height limits may be increased by up to twenty-five percent (25%) upon approval of a Special Exception by the Board, pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance.
- Design and siting criteria. The following criteria shall govern any TAS eligible for administrative approval:
- Structure type. The TAS shall be either a monopole design or a self-supporting design with a maximum base width of thirty-six (36) inches.
- Setback distances. The TAS and any related ground-mounted facilities shall comply with the minimum setback and yard requirements of the underlying zoning district, and shall also be setback from all existing off-site buildings a distance equal to the height of the TAS. The Zoning Administrator may reduce the setback requirement from existing buildings provided the design of the TAS incorporates breakpoint technology. In this case, the setback from buildings shall be equal to one-hundred and ten percent (110%) of the distance from the highest point of the TAS to its breakpoint location.
- Special design criteria. If the TAS is located within the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District, within two-hundred fifty (250) feet of the centerline of any primary or secondary road, within five-hundred (500) feet of the right-of-way of Germanna Highway (Route 3), within one-thousand (1,000) feet of the right-of-way of a Virginia Scenic Byway, or within one-thousand (1,000) feet of any specific property listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Landmarks Register, concealment of the TAS shall be required in accordance with any of the following:
- The TAS may be located within, or on the fringe of, a substantial stand of mature woodlands. For this option, the TAS and any installed antennas shall be painted or otherwise colored to simulate a wood look in order to match the adjacent woodlands. Any compound fencing for ground equipment shall be given a similar treatment. The applicant shall demonstrate long-term viability of the woodlands, such as via natural growth protection area easement, to maintain compliance with this subsection.
- If the TAS is to be located in an open field or other open area, it shall be disguised to simulate a mature tree.
- The TAS may be concealed by or within a sacrificial façade or enclosure, such as silo, flagpole, water tower, art sculpture, or other structure as approved by the Zoning Administrator.
- Standard design criteria. If the TAS is located outside of any area listed above in subsection (3), it may be constructed without concealment in any manner described below:
- A TAS constructed of wood shall be maintained in its natural state or painted a color from a brown or tan palette which simulates wood.
- A TAS constructed of metal shall be maintained in a rust-free and corrosion-free state, and shall not cause undue glare onto neighboring properties.
- A TAS constructed of other materials shall be painted a neutral color from a gray, tan, or brown palette.
- Submittal requirements. Any proposed TAS and related facilities eligible for administrative approval pursuant to the above criteria shall submit the following for approval:
- Zoning Permit application materials pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance.
- A scaled elevation drawing of the proposed tower with the maximum height indicated and any related facilities shown.
- Drawings and/or documents necessary to demonstrate compliance with the design and siting criteria above.
- If the TAS is to be located on a property subject to a conservation easement, written consent of easement holder.
Sec. 70-852. – Telecommunications Towers and Facilities Approved by Special Use Permit (SUP).
- Applicability. Any of the below categories of telecommunication antenna structures (TASs) shall have an SUP approved by the Board, pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance, before the construction and use may commence. All TASs approved pursuant to this section shall be considered principal uses for the purpose of determining minimum setbacks and yards.
- Any TAS within any zoning district which exceeds one-hundred (100) feet in height, unless otherwise permitted via Special Exception pursuant to Sec. 70-851(a).
- Any other telecommunications tower or facility not otherwise specifically provided for in this Article.
- Pre-submittal conference. An applicant submitting an SUP application pursuant to this section shall confer with the Zoning Administrator prior to submittal so he/she may provide a preliminary review of the proposal and the application materials.
- Submittal requirements. An application for approval of any of the above categories of TASs shall include the following:
- SUP application materials pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance, provided that the required site plan is prepared by a licensed professional and also shows the locations of all buildings within five-hundred (500) feet of the proposed tower compound.
- A scaled elevation drawing, prepared by a licensed professional, which shows the design, type, location, size, height, and configuration of the proposed TAS and all proposed antennas and other equipment.
- Photographs of the proposed site and of the point(s) of access to the state road network.
- A complete Section 106 review pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) with findings as determined or confirmed by the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO).
- A copy of the completed FCC Form 854 (Application for Antenna Structure Registration). If the project does not fall under a categorical exclusion (CatEx) in the FCC environmental rules and regulations, the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) as issued by the FCC shall also be supplied.
- A written, signed commitment by the tower owner that the proposed TAS will provide co-location opportunities. This shall be accompanied by a certification from a professional engineer that the TAS, if one-hundred (150) feet in height or less, can accommodate at least four (4) co-located facilities, and if above one-hundred (150) feet in height, can accommodate at least six (6) co-located facilities. Alternatively, the applicant may request partial or full exemption from this provision in writing provided specific conditions warrant such a request.
- An analysis of the need for the new TAS. This shall detail why existing towers or other alternative tower structures cannot satisfy the need for the new TAS based on geographical constraints, service coverage maps, engineering requirements, lack of suitable co-location opportunities, and/or issues due to anticipated electromagnetic interference.
- A letter of commitment by at least one (1) telecommunication services provider to locate facilities on the proposed TAS.
- Photographs of visual simulations or of a balloon test conducted at the proposed site. The photographs shall simulate the visibility of the maximum height of the TAS, if constructed. Photographs shall be simulated/taken from at least four (4) vantage points on public roads and/or public properties to adequately simulate the visual impact of the proposed TAS on neighboring and nearby properties. If a balloon test is conducted, it shall last a duration of at least six (6) hours during clear, daytime weather. The applicant shall provide notice of the date(s) and time(s) of the test in a local newspaper of general circulation at least seven (7) days prior to the actual test, and provide proof of said notice to the county.
- A draft copy of the lease for the subject property, if applicable.
- Proof of notification to the FAA, a copy of the FAA “no hazard” determination, and proof of registration with the FCC, as applicable.
- If the TAS is to be located on a property subject to a conservation easement, written consent of easement holder.
- Design and siting criteria. The following criteria shall govern any TAS and related facilities permitted pursuant to this section.
- Structure type. The TAS shall be a monopole design in accordance with the specific criteria below.
- A TAS located within the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District, within five-hundred (500) feet of the right-of-way of Germanna Highway (Route 3), within two-thousand (2,000) feet of the right-of-way of a Virginia Scenic Byway, or within two-thousand (2,000) feet of any specific property listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the Virginia Landmarks Register shall be adequately concealed from public view. Adequate concealment may be achieved by disguising the monopole to simulate a mature tree, disguising it with sacrificial façade or enclosure which blends with the surrounding landscape, or by locating the monopole within a stand of mature woodlands pursuant to subsection iii below.
- A monopole located outside of any area listed above may be constructed without concealment, unless otherwise required by the Board. If concealment is not required, the TAS shall be maintained with a galvanized finish or a neutral paint color.
- Height. The height of the TAS shall not exceed one-hundred ninety-nine (199) feet, including any non-structural elements such as a lightning rod.
- Setback distances. The TAS shall be setback at least five-hundred (500) feet from all existing off-site dwellings, and shall also be setback from all existing on-site and off-site buildings a distance equal to the height of the TAS. The TAS and any related ground-mounted facilities shall also comply with the minimum setback and yard requirements of the underlying zoning district. The Board may approve a reduction in the five-hundred (500) feet setback requirement, upon written request by the applicant, whereby he/she demonstrates, due to topography, TAS safety features/design, achieving an adequate service area, or due to the general characteristics of the area, strict adherence to this setback requirement will result in a hardship. Setback distances from on-site and off-site buildings specified herein shall not apply to buildings built after approval of the SUP for the TAS.
- Lighting. The lighting of a TAS shall be pursuant to FAA requirements, unless the TAS is located within any area listed in subsection (1)i above, in which case lighting shall be prohibited. Lighting of the fenced compound shall be limited to security lighting only, and any fixtures used for such purposes shall be of the full-cutoff variety.
- Ground equipment; fencing. All ground equipment associated with the TAS shall be located within a fenced compound within the lease area, if applicable. All fencing shall be a minimum of eight (8) feet in height. Unless otherwise obscured from public view by other means, the compound and fencing shall be screened by landscaping approved as part of the site plan for the project.
- Antennas. All antennas and other facilities installed on the TAS shall blend aesthetically with the design and color of the TAS. Additionally, all antennas and other attached facilities shall comply with the applicable co-location requirements set forth in Sec. 70-850.
- Ridgelines. The location of any TAS permitted pursuant to this section shall avoid being located near any ridgeline in order to limit impacts to viewsheds.
- Exceeding requirements. Any of the requirements specified in this subsection may be exceeded upon approval of a Special Exception by the Board, pursuant to Article II of the Zoning Ordinance. A Special Exception application may only be submitted after approval of the SUP for the TAS.
- Structure type. The TAS shall be a monopole design in accordance with the specific criteria below.
- Approval criteria. In reviewing an SUP application for a new TAS, in addition to the SUP approval considerations specified in Article II of the Zoning Ordinance, the Planning Commission and the Board shall also consider the following factors, as applicable:
- The demonstrated need for the TAS;
- Visual impacts of the TAS;
- Types and intensities of land uses in the area;
- Surrounding tree cover and foliage;
- Proximity to historic areas, buildings, and structures;
- Proximity to airports;
- Proximity to tourism assets;
- Access to the site;
- Language of the lease; and
- Any other factor relevant to the purpose and intent of this Article.
- Supplemental review. In review and consideration of an SUP application pursuant to this section, the Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, and/or Board may contract the services of a licensed engineer to assist in review. The applicant shall be responsible for reimbursing the county for the costs of this review upon request, not to exceed two-thousand, five-hundred dollars ($2,500).
- Local government access. Tower owners shall provide the County co-location opportunities as a public benefit to improve the availability and reliability of public telecommunication services. At least one (1) suitable, usable space shall be available for use by the County on all towers at the time of SUP approval, and in no event shall that space be occupied by another user without providing the County at least sixty (60) days written notice and an opportunity for the County to lease the space at that time. A suitable, usable space shall be any space on the TAS that can occupied without upgrades or other structural alterations at the County’s expense.
Sec. 70-853. – Exempt and Government-owned Telecommunications Towers and Facilities.
- Exempt installations. The following categories of telecommunication antenna structures (TASs) shall be exempt from the provisions of this Article and subject to any requirements of this section:
- Any TAS constructed and owned by the County, pursuant to subsection (b) below.
- Any TAS constructed by a state or federal entity which is otherwise exempt from local regulation.
- Any temporary TAS erected by a governmental entity for the duration of a declared state of emergency, provided that the facility is removed within three (3) months of the end of the state of emergency.
- Any temporary TAS erected by a commercial entity to provide coverage of a special event. Such a facility shall be removed within thirty (30) days, or within seven (7) days after conclusion of the event, whichever occurs first.
- Any noncommercial antennas and other similar devices for private, in-home residential use, such as broadcast television antennas, wireless access points/routers, wireless network range extenders, and the like. However, any such antenna or device shall be subject to the maximum height requirements of the underlying zoning district.
- County-owned facilities. The following procedures and criteria shall govern any permanent TAS and related facilities constructed by the County:
- Prior to construction, the location of the TAS and related facilities shall be generally shown and/or described in the Comprehensive Plan pursuant to § 15.2-2232 of the Code of Virginia.
- Prior to construction, the Board shall, upon consultation with the Broadband Authority as necessary, issue a written determination of public necessity for the proposed TAS and related facilities. This determination shall include a detailed description of the proposed TAS, including height and design specifications, necessary to meet the public necessity. Prior to issuing this determination, the Board shall allow for public comment on the proposal for a period no shorter than thirty (30) days.
- Any TAS and related facilities constructed by the County shall comply with all applicable state and federal regulations, including NEPA and NHPA reviews if necessary.
- In the event the County desires to transfer its ownership of a TAS to a private commercial entity, a Special Use Permit (SUP) for the use shall be required pursuant to this Article. This shall be in addition to any required public hearing related to the disposition of public property.
Sec. 70-854. – Nonconforming Telecommunications Towers and Facilities.
- Any telecommunication antenna structure (TAS) constructed prior to May 8th, 2018 which otherwise does not comply with the provisions of this Article shall be deemed a lawful nonconformity. A lawful nonconforming TAS may be permitted for co-located antennas/facilities, but shall not be expanded, enlarged, or altered except in full conformance with this Article and with Article III (Nonconformities) of the Zoning Ordinance.
- Any nonconforming TAS may be moved to another portion of the same property on which it is constructed upon approval of a Special Exception by the Board.
Sec. 70-855. – Abandoned Facilities.
Any telecommunication antenna structure (TAS) or antenna not operated or used for a continuous period of twelve (12) months shall be considered abandoned. The owner of the tower or the property owner, as the case may be, shall remove the TAS and all associated facilities within ninety (90) days of receipt of the notice from the Zoning Administrator to do so. Ground equipment and any buildings may remain with written approval from the property owner. Should the owner fail to comply with the removal requirement notice, the County may remove the TAS and any related facilities, the costs for which shall be paid by the property owner. Alternatively, with consent of the owner, the County may assume ownership of the TAS and any related facilities for its own use.
Secs. 70-856 – 70-938. – Reserved.
Sec. 70-939. – Temporary uses, general.
(b) Temporary or seasonal sales.
(1) Temporary sales of produce, meals, Christmas trees, fireworks, and other seasonal goods, are permitted upon approval of a temporary zoning permit.
Such permit may impose conditions necessary to alleviate any adverse impacts such as provisions for adequate on-site parking, public safety, fire safety, hours of operation, provision for sewage disposal, and other health and safety concerns.
(2) A temporary zoning permit for temporary sales shall be valid for a period not to exceed 45 days, unless extended, and shall require that all structures and materials be removed within such time period. At a minimum:
a. Structures for temporary sales, which may include portable trailers, may not exceed 500 square feet in floor area and shall be setback a minimum of 35 feet from public roads.
b. Entrances and exits must be clearly delineated and located to provide safe ingress and egress from roads.
(3) Outdoor retail sales events shall be allowed every weekend, including one three-day event every 30 days.
(c) Special events.
(1) A temporary zoning permit shall be required for special events that are planned for or which reasonably may be expected to attract more than 100 persons at any one time.
Examples of special events which require a temporary zoning permit are: carnival, circus, festival, fair, dog show, horse show, fireworks show, tent Event or similar meetings, and shall be issued for not more than two occasions and not more than ten days on a specific property in any six-month period.
(2) No such activity shall be located closer than 50 feet from the property line of a residential use, unless the owner of the residential use grants and files express written permission in a form that can be reviewed and validated by the zoning administrator.
(3) Adequate provisions must be made for off-street parking, security, safe ingress and egress, refuse disposal, sanitary facilities as appropriate and approved by the zoning administrator.
(4) Special events are permitted only between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight. The zoning administrator may require that no activity, including set-up or knockdown of any such use, be permitted between 12:00 midnight and 7:00 a.m.
(5) Night operations shall be permitted only if the zoning administrator determines that the proposed lighting protects the public safety and will not cause excessive glare into residential areas or onto public streets.
(6) Prior to issuance of a zoning permit, outdoor or music festivals must also obtain an entertainment permit from the county administrator’s office.
(7) Prior to issuance of a zoning permit, fireworks shows must also obtain a fireworks display permit, which sets forth the days and hours of the show, from the county administrator’s office.
(8) The following special events are exempt from the requirements of this section and may occur without a temporary zoning permit. Exempt special events, however, shall remain subject to all other applicable provisions of this ordinance [Ord. of 3-9-10] and the county laws and regulations, including, but not limited to standards governing noise control.
a. Special events planned or reasonably expected to attract less than 100 persons at any one time.
b. Special events occurring within, or upon the grounds of, a private residence, where the property owner receives no compensation for hosting the event and guests/attendees are not charged an admission fee.
c. Any event sponsored in whole or in part by the county or another political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
d. Any organized special events conducted at sites or facilities typically intended, used, and designed for such events.
Examples of such exempt activities include, but are not necessarily limited to sporting events conducted on courses or fields intended and used for such activities such as commercial stables or horse riding facilities; historic home museums and adjacent grounds, wedding services conducted at churches, country inns, banquet facilities/halls, reception halls, or similar facilities; wine tasting and wine tasting dinners at Virginia farm wineries or wineries whose facilities are designed for such events; conferences and similar events in facilities designed for such use.
(Ord. of 3-9-2010)