Stealth tower to serve wireless customers at Smith Mountain Lake

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A new cell phone tower stands tall near Westlake Towne Center in Franklin County. And for the last several days a crew has been working hard to make sure it doesn’t stand out.

It’s a stealth tower, designed to look like something it’s not - in this case a 160-foot tall pine tree.

The last of 12 towers included in phase one of Franklin County’s broadband initiative, it’s among the first of its kind in our region.

“When we get into an area where there is either a historic challenge or a severe zoning challenge, we have to come up with a solution that fools the eye, but still meets the need,” said Anthony Smith, the Founder and President of Blue Ridge Towers, the company behind the project.

It took about three years for his company to win approval for the tower, in large part because of its proximity to the Booker T. Washington National Monument.

“It is illegal to build a tower within a mile of a national monument without going through tremendous steps,” Smith told WDBJ7 Wednesday afternoon, “and we went through every last one of those tremendous steps.”

Smith said he is mindful of the history represented in the landscape, and feels a strong connection to the ideals of the African-American educator who was an advocate for black entrepreneurship.

“And for me to be building a cell tower on the ground where he was born a slave, a black man 100-plus years later, it touches me in a deep place, and I think it says a lot for Franklin County, for our area, that we’ve overcome a lot of bad history and that we’re all working together to build a great future for everybody,” Smith said.

“Once the tower is complete, the carriers must install their equipment, but Smith said it could be in service during the first quarter of next year.