Loudoun citizens battle AT&T, declaring “not on our mountain”

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day

The Short Hill Mountain is a scenic and pre-historic geologic treasure for which the County Board of Supervisors is responsible as stewards to maintain and preserve and protect; the County’s Comprehensive Plan memorializes this praiseworthy obligation.

Many citizens have objected that AT&T wants to deface the mountain, by placing a Costco size industrial building, atop the mountain, visible for miles around, sucking up millions of gallons of water, and megawatts of electricity, in a rural and residential area, and the community is calling foul, and demanding that the Board stop AT&T in its tracks.

Citizens on both sides of the Mountain are demanding that the Board overrule the permit that the Planning Commission, they charge, improvidently granted, and that the Board do this at its meeting scheduled for June 23, 2016.

There have been public and private gatherings all for the purpose of defeating this permit. There have been statements and letters published and forwarded to the Board and on social media. There are resolutions to this effect. Some are drafting reports they may submit to the Board. Citizens are seeking audiences with their elected representatives at every level – county, state and federal government.

In recent days, there have been yard signs proliferating that object to AT&T’s site at the top of the mountain, simply saying, “No AT&T Data Center on Short Hill,” referencing the Board’s meeting to consider overruling the permit on June 23rd. Another sign directs interested citizens to “catch up” on the latest on the Shorthill Rescue FB Page.

Yard signs against the Data Center abound

Yard signs against the Data Center abound

AT&T has already clear cut the top of the mountain, to its very edge; and, neighbors have heard them doing this for months; they’ve posted these reports on social media including Shorthill Rescue.

AT&T nevertheless expects to place on this site a building, 160,000 square foot large, at a height of 35 feet, on 176 acre parcel, requiring eight industrial 4MW size generators, eleven air coolers and 60 employees for what is universally presumed to be a data center that will operate 24/7 with round the clock lighting that breaks the star bright dark nights of the country hills.

Lovettsville’s Heather Kraftcheck says, “I moved out here so I could see the stars.”

Although there has been nothing like this at that site before, AT&T claims that their proposed “use” is not “new” but “continued” in, what some charge, is a gossamer thin cover to pretend this is not a “data center” and a means to circumvent the plain meaning of the Comprehensive Plan. Wayne C. Barker, when briefing visitors who asked to inspect the AT&T site, provided a card, citing his role as the “principal project manager” for “data centers.”

A card presented to persons granted a site visit of the AT&T Data Center

A card presented to persons granted a site visit of the AT&T Data Center

Before the permit was issued, AT&T held no public meeting East of the Mountain to inform the Catoctin community what they were doing.

This “dodge” resulted in a big surprise after the permit issued and quickly transformed into anger and outrage that AT&T was trying to slip something over on the community.

When citizens consulted the pictures of the site in AT&T’s application, they complained that they were taken at a sharp angle to the vertical to obscure the cut in the mountain top that AT&T was actually making.
When citizens consulted the permit application, they read how this site will require 2 million gallons of water a year, and a 250,000 gallon diesel fuel tank underground, 11 cooling towers, and 8 powerful and seemingly very noisy generators.

There are concerns for the residents who live downhill to the East of the site, that their wells may run dry.

There are serious and legitimate concerns about storm water runoff and landslides; pictures have been posted on social media, again on Shorthill Rescue, of at least one back yard under water below AT&T’s site.

There is a long history of soil erosion, given the steep slope of the mountain at the site. Thus, there are deposits of sediment from storm water runoff that contribute to the degradation of stream water quality and loss of aquatic habitat. This AT&T site drains to Piney Run, Dutchman’s Creek and the Catoctin Creek watershed via Milltown Creek. Laurie Hailey obtained information that the Health Department had issued past violations to AT&T for waste water flowing into the creek.

The Loudoun County Planning Commission granted AT&T a permit to build this unprecedented industrial fixture in a rural and residential community without adequately considering and insisting on the means to redress the known and possible pollutants including generator noise, storm water runoff, ground water depletion, and diesel fuel leakage.

More to the point perhaps, citizens complain that the permit violated the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan that says that what’s “new,” “non-rural,” “commercial,” and not “compatible with the dominant agricultural land use pattern,” and that is not located in a town is impermissible.

Melani Carty says that the original “use” of this facility, a technology “use” made obsolete in 2011, prompted the community to object in the 1960s to the original AT&T application, but the County government folded then, as reflected in a cartoon at that time.

1960s cartoon critical of the original AT&T site since discontinued

1960s cartoon critical of the original AT&T site since discontinued

Bob Kelly summed up the sentiment of the community when he declared, “Not on our mountain.”
This is the rallying cry for a chorus of citizens, groups, and partisans who often disagree on other matters, drawn from across the County and region, who all agree on this issue – that this data center does not belong “on our mountain.”

AT&T stands poised to breach the promise of this County’s Comprehensive Plan unless the Board of Supervisors overrules AT&T’s permit on June 23, 2016; the community weighed in on the matter on in public comments on June 7, 2016, and plan to appear in force when the Board votes on the permit, either up or down, on June 23rd.

2 thoughts on “Loudoun citizens battle AT&T, declaring “not on our mountain”

  1. Faith Myseros

    This is the view from my front yard, out my living room window, out my dining room window. The quiet and views I moved here for to be taken away by AT&T?
    Why, because they don’t want to pay to build in an industrial location.
    Put your industrial building in an industrial area, don’t take away from our freedom to put extra money in your pocket. Everyone that pays an AT&T bill knows you can afford to build in an industrial location.
    Stay away!!

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