Orange County, Virginia

Code of Ordinances




Sec. 70-846. - Applicability to comprehensive plan.

One of the most treasured assets of Orange County is its scenic beauty. In fact, the 1999 Orange County Comprehensive Plan states that the natural environment is Orange County's most valuable asset, and protecting the environment contributes to the high quality of life enjoyed by the residents of the county. Consequently, the plan calls for the shielding of the rural character of the county from the undesirable effects of uncontrolled growth. In this age of mobile phones and other personal communication services, there is an ever-increasing need for efficient and comprehensive communication networks with facilities located such that adequate coverage and service can be provided to all users.

Very often, a symptom of uncontrolled growth is an increase in the number of telecommunication facilities on the landscape. Accordingly, implementing means "J" listed under the above-mentioned plan goal calls for the development of an ordinance to address telecommunication facilities with the intent of minimizing the impact of such facilities within the county. Hence, it is the intent of this article to allow for the placement of telecommunication facilities while preserving the pastoral scenery that makes Orange County a great place to live and work.

Currently there are several structures in the county (including some telecommunication facilities) that could be utilized for co-location of new or expanded communication services. Anyone wishing to expand their communication services in the county is encouraged to make use of these existing facilities in order to reduce the impact of the expansion of these services on the scenic resources of the county.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-847. - Intent.

The purpose of this article is to establish general guidelines for the siting of towers and antennas. The goals of this article are to:

(1) Encourage the location of towers in nonresidential areas;

(2) Encourage strongly the joint use of new and existing tower sites;

(3) Encourage users of towers and antennas to locate them, to the extent possible, in areas where the adverse impact on the community is minimal;

(4) Encourage users of towers and antennas to configure them in a way that minimizes the adverse visual impact on the community; and

(5) Provide adequate sites for the provision of telecommunication services.

This article is intended to comply with all federal and state regulations.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-848. - Definitions.

Alternative tower structure means man-made trees, clock towers, bell steeples, light poles and similar alternative-design mounting structures that camouflage or conceal the presence of antennas or towers.

Amateur radio operator means an amateur radio operator, commonly referred to as HAM operator, who has a valid FCC issued license to operate an individual system.

Antenna means any apparatus designed for telephonic, data, radio, or television communications through the sending and/or receiving of electromagnetic waves.

Avoidance area means locations in Orange County where telecommunication facilities should not be located. An avoidance area is not a "prohibited area," since there are conditions under which telecommunication facilities might be located in an avoidance area. Avoidance areas include but are not limited to residential areas, historic districts or properties, scenic byways, mountaintops and any other sensitive areas defined by the county.

FAA means the Federal Aviation Administration.

FCC means the Federal Communications Commission.

Height means, when referring to a tower or other structure, the distance measured from ground level to the highest point on the tower or other structure, even if the highest point is an antenna or lightning rod.

Opportunity sites means areas where placement of telecommunication facilities is encouraged by Orange County. These sites include but are not limited to areas zoned for commercial or industrial use, location on existing structures or towers, or any others as defined by the county.

Tower means any structure that is designed and constructed primarily for the purpose of supporting one or more antennas, including but not limited to self-supporting lattice towers, guy towers, or monopole towers. The term includes radio and television transmission towers, microwave towers, common-carrier towers, cellular telephone towers, alternative tower structures, and the like.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)



Sec. 70-871. - Applicability.

This article shall apply to all unincorporated areas of Orange County.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-872. - Height limitations.

The requirements set forth in this article shall govern the location of towers that exceed, and antennas that are installed at greater than, 50 feet in height.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-873. - Amateur radio and receive-only antennas.

This article shall not govern any tower, or the installation of any antenna, that is (1) under 200 feet in height and is owned and operated by a federally-licensed amateur radio station operator or, is (2) used exclusively for receive only antennas for amateur radio station operation.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-874. - Colocation on existing structures.

The placement of an antenna on or in an existing structure such as a building, sign, light pole, water tank, or other freestanding structure or existing tower or pole shall be permitted and is subject to administrative permit review processes. The addition of said antenna shall not add more than 20 feet in height to the original structure or tower and shall not require additional lighting pursuant to FAA or other applicable requirements. Such permitted use also may include the placement of additional buildings or other supporting equipment used in connection with said antenna so long as such building or equipment is placed within the existing structure or property and is necessary for such use. Towers approved through the special use permit process shall not be extended above the originally approved height except as provided for in section 70-879.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-875. - Expansion of existing towers.

A telecommunications facility in existence upon the adoption of this article may not be expanded except as provided in section 70-879.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)

Sec. 70-876. - New towers.

A special use permit shall be obtained from the board of supervisors prior to the location and construction of any new towers as outlined herein.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-877. - Nonconforming structures.

A structure or use that existed lawfully prior to the adoption or amendment of this article, but fails, by reason of such adoption or amendment, to conform to the setback, yard, height or other requirements of this article, shall be considered nonconforming.

(1) If, at the effective date of this article or amendment hereto, any legally established structure or use does not conform to the provisions of this article, such structure or use may continue as herein provided.

(2) The right to continue a nonconforming structure or use shall not be impaired by any change in title or occupancy.

(3) If the use of any nonconforming structure is discontinued for a period exceeding two years after the enactment or amendment of this article, it shall be deemed abandoned and subject to section 70-936. Any subsequent use of the structure shall conform to the requirements of this article.

(4) If a nonconforming structure or use has been changed such that it more nearly conforms to the requirements of this article, it shall not be returned to the previous nonconforming condition, or changed such that it is farther from conforming to the requirements of this article.

(5) Nothing in this article shall be deemed to prevent the repair, maintenance or strengthening of a nonconforming structure.

(6) A nonconforming structure may be restored or replaced within its original footprint and height.

(7) A nonconforming structure or use may be expanded or enlarged only in conformance with the requirements of this article.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-878. - Exceeding requirements.

The board of supervisors may grant a special exception to allow structures which exceed any of the requirements described herein.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Secs. 70-879--70-900. - Reserved.


Sec. 70-901. - Preapplication meeting required.

Prior to the submission of a special use permit application for the location and construction of a new telecommunications facility, the applicant shall meet with planning and zoning staff to discuss the following:

(1) Proposed location of new facility and its proximity to county designated avoidance areas and opportunity sites.

(2) The trade-off between tower height and number of towers.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-902. - Submission of special use permit application.

The following shall be submitted with an application for a special use permit:

(1) Site plan required. Each applicant requesting a special use permit under this article shall submit a scaled plan and a scaled elevation view and other supporting drawings, calculations, and other documentation, signed and sealed by appropriate licensed professionals, showing the location and dimensions of all improvements, including information concerning topography, radio frequency coverage, tower height requirements, setbacks, drives, parking, fencing, landscaping and adjacent uses. The board of supervisors may require other information as necessary to assess compliance with this article. Additionally, applicant shall provide actual photographs of the site that include a simulated photographic image of the proposed tower. The photograph with the simulated image shall include the foreground, the midground, and the background of the site.

(2) Section 106 review. Findings of impact of the proposed telecommunications facility on historical structures, sites or viewsheds as determined by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources through the section 106 review shall be included with the submission of an application for a special use permit.

(3) Inventory of existing sites. Each applicant for an antenna and or tower shall provide to the department of planning and zoning an inventory of its existing facilities that are either within the locality or within five miles of the border thereof, including specific information about the location, height, and existing use and available capacity of each tower. The department of planning and zoning may share such information with other applicants applying for approvals or special use permits under this article or other organizations seeking to locate antennas within the jurisdiction of the locality, provided, however that the department of planning and zoning shall not, by sharing such information, in any way represent or warrant that such sites are available or suitable.

(4) Colocation compatibility. The applicant shall provide copies of its colocation policy along with an engineering report certifying that the proposed tower is compatible for colocation with as many users (including the primary user) as is feasible by the proposed tower height.

(5) Availability of suitable existing towers or other structures. No new tower shall be permitted unless the applicant demonstrates that no existing tower or structure can accommodate the applicant's proposed antenna. Evidence must be submitted to demonstrate that no existing tower or structure can accommodate the applicant's proposed antenna and may consist of any of the following:

a. No existing towers or structures are located within the geographic area required to meet applicant's engineering requirements.

b. Existing towers or structures are not of sufficient height to meet applicant's engineering requirements.

c. Existing towers or structures do not have sufficient structural strength to support applicant's proposed antenna and related equipment.

d. The applicant's proposed antenna would cause electromagnetic interference with the antenna on the existing towers or structures, or the antenna on the existing towers or structures would cause interference with the applicant's proposed antenna.

e. The fees, costs, or contractual provisions required by the owner in order to share an existing tower or structure or to adapt an existing tower or structure for sharing are unreasonable. Costs exceeding the cost of new tower development are presumed to be unreasonable.

f. The applicant demonstrates that there are other limiting factors that render existing towers and structures unsuitable.

(6) Licensed carrier commitment. An application must be accompanied by a letter of commitment to locate from a licensee of the FCC.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-903. - Notification of adjoining landowners.

Property owners adjoining a parcel under application for the location of a new telecommunications facility shall be notified pursuant to Code of Virginia, §15.2-2204.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-904. - Factors considered in granting special use permits for new towers.

The applicant shall obtain a special use permit from the board of supervisors before erecting any new towers or antennas covered by this article. The board of supervisors may consider the following factors in determining whether to issue a special use permit, although the board may waive or reduce the burden on the applicant of one or more of these criteria if they conclude that the goals of this article are better served thereby.

(1) Height of the proposed tower;

(2) Proximity of the tower to residential structures and residential district boundaries;

(3) Proximity to county designated avoidance areas and opportunity sites.

(4) Visual impact of the proposed structure as viewed from adjacent and nearby properties;

(5) Surrounding topography;

(6) Surrounding tree coverage and foliage;

(7) Design of the tower, with particular reference to design characteristics that have the effect of reducing or eliminating visual obtrusiveness;

(8) Proposed ingress and egress;

(9) Colocation policy;

(10) Language of the lease agreement dealing with colocation;

(11) Consistency with the comprehensive plan and the purposes to be served by zoning;

(12) Availability of suitable existing towers and other structures as discussed in subsection 70-902(4); and

(13) Proximity to commercial or private airports.

(14) History of performance of tower development company and carrier.

(15) Potential impact on historic structures, sites or viewsheds as outlined in the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Section 106 review.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Secs. 70-905--70-925. - Reserved.


Sec. 70-926. - Principal use.

For purposes of determining compliance with setback requirements, antennas and towers shall be considered principal uses. An existing use or an existing structure on the same lot shall not preclude the installation of antennas or towers on such lot. For purposes of determining whether the installation of a tower or antenna complies with district regulations, the dimensions of the entire lot shall control, even though the antennas or towers may be located on leased area within such lots. Towers that are constructed, and antennas that are installed, in accordance with the provisions of this article shall not be deemed to constitute the expansion of a nonconforming use or structure.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-927. - Design.

The requirements set forth in this section shall govern the design and installation of all towers and antennas governed by this article; provided, however, that the board of supervisors may waive any of these requirements if it determines that the goals of this article are better served thereby.

(1) Towers and antennas shall be designed in a manner that reduces visual obtrusiveness, which can include the use of alternative tower structures. Dish antennas will be of a neutral, nonreflective color with no logos and shall not exceed a diameter of six feet. Self-supporting lattice towers shall be discouraged.

(2) At a facility site, the design of the buildings and related structures shall, to the extent possible, use materials, colors, textures, screening, and landscaping that will blend the tower facilities to the natural setting and surrounding structures.

(3) If an antenna is installed on a structure other than a tower, the antenna and supporting electrical and mechanical equipment must be of a neutral color that is identical to, or closely compatible with, the color of the supporting structure so as to make the antenna and related equipment as visually unobtrusive as possible.

(4) Towers shall not be artificially lighted, unless required by the FAA or other applicable authority. If lighting is required, the Board of Supervisors may review the available lighting alternatives and approve the design that would cause the least disturbance to the surrounding views.

(5) No advertising of any type may be placed on the tower or accompanying facility unless as part of retrofitting an existing sign structure.

(6) Towers shall be designed to collapse within the lease area in case of structural failure.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-928. - Federal requirements.

All towers must meet or exceed current standards and regulations of the FAA, the FCC, and any other agency of the federal government with the authority to regulate towers and antennas. Upon submission to the county for a permit to build and operate a telecommunications facility, the applicant shall provide the results of an FAA study showing the location is suitable for aviation clearance and any lighting requirements.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-929. - Building codes.

To ensure the structural integrity of towers, the owner of a tower shall ensure that it is maintained in compliance with standards contained in applicable federal, state and local building codes and regulations.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-930. - Setbacks.

The following setback requirements shall apply to all towers and antennas for which a special use permit is required; provided, however, that the board of supervisors may reduce the standard setback requirements if the goals of this article would be better served thereby.

(1) The tower must be set back from any off-site residential structure no less than 500 feet.

(2) Towers, guys, and accessory facilities must satisfy the minimum zoning district setback requirements for principal structures.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-931. - Security fencing.

New towers shall be enclosed by security fencing not less than eight feet in height and shall also be equipped with an appropriate anti-climbing device; provided, however, that the board of supervisors may waive such requirements as it deems appropriate.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-932. - Landscaping.

The following requirements shall govern the landscaping of surrounding towers for which a special use permit is required; provided, however, that the board of supervisors may waive such requirements if the goals of this article would be better served thereby.

(1) Tower facilities shall be landscaped with a buffer of plant materials that effectively screen the view of the fencing and support buildings from adjacent property. The standard buffer shall consist of a landscaped strip at least four feet wide outside the perimeter of the facilities.

(2) In locations in which the board of supervisors finds that the visual impact of the tower would be minimal, the landscaping requirement may be reduced or waived altogether.

(3) Existing mature tree growth and natural land forms on the site shall be preserved to the maximum extent possible. In some cases, such as towers sited on large, wooded lots, the board of supervisors may determine the natural growth around the property perimeter may be sufficient buffer.

(4) Existing trees within 200 feet of the tower shall not be removed except as may be authorized to permit construction of the tower and related equipment buildings, installation of utilities and vehicle access.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-935. - Local government access.

Owners of towers shall provide the county co-location opportunities as a community benefit to improve radio or other forms of electronic communications for county departments and emergency services, provided it does not conflict with the colocation requirement of subsection 70-902(4). This requirement may be waived for each tower only by the board of supervisors.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-936. - Removal of abandoned antennas and towers.

Any antenna or tower that is not operated for a continuous period of 24 months shall be considered abandoned. The owner of each such antenna or tower shall remove same within 180 days of receipt of notice from the board of supervisors notifying the owner of such equipment removal requirement (removal includes the removal of the tower, all tower and fence footers, underground cables and support buildings. The buildings may remain with owner's approval). Prior to abandonment, the county shall be given the opportunity to take possession of the facility for its own use.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-937. -  Reserved


Sec. 70-938. - Review fees.

Any costs incurred for review by a licensed engineer of any of the required information as noted herein shall be paid by the applicant and shall not exceed $2,500.00.

(Ord. of 8-8-2000)


Sec. 70-939. - Temporary uses, general.

(a) Reserved.

(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)