Plans to bring telecommunications station to Strasburg move forward

STRASBURG — Strasburg may have a telecommunications station headed its way.

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to send plans by Virginia Air Networks, Inc. for a proposed station forward to a Town Council work session.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Tony Bates, general manager for Virginia Air Networks, described the potential station at 458 Radio Station Road as a way of allowing the internet company to compete with Shentel.

“We all know if you live here, the options are not many and the services here are even less,” Bates said. “So we want to be able to provide outstanding service to our clients, the residents here.”

The proposed 65-foot station would send fiberoptic internet to people in Shenandoah County.

Virginia Air Networks, Inc. is a new company based in the region. The company was officially registered with the state of Virginia on June 19 of this year, according to its incorporation documents.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Bates described the company as new but stated that the company’s owners, Joseph Jones and Darin Hockman, are seasoned businessmen. Jones owns 1st Preferred Technologies, LLC, and Hockman owns the Papermill Place restaurant, both of which are in Winchester.

“These guys have been in business for many, many years,” Bates said.

Although the proposed plans passed  the Planning Commission unanimously, the commission did add a condition that would require Virginia Air Networks to make the tower available for leasing by other telecommunications companies.

During the meeting, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said that he wasn’t certain how the town would go about enforcing this provision and would contact the town attorney to discuss the contract further. But Pearson said that other communities have implemented similar conditions on large communications towers.

“I think the way it’s worked in other communities is they basically provide a copy of their lease terms” to the town, Pearson said.

Without this condition, Pearson said, the town could be in a position where other companies would be proposing to put in towers.

“It’s the only real way to allow for competition to occur without allowing for everybody to put in a tower,” Pearson said.

The decision by the Planning Commission to approve of the station means that the issue is headed for a work session and then an eventual vote in the Town Council.

Pearson said that he is expecting that the station will be discussed at the next work session scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 5, and that the Town Council will vote at their 7 p.m. Sept. 12 meeting.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the name and position of Town Manager Wyatt Pearson.