The Old Town Civic Association

Advocating for the interests of our Old Town Alexandria neighborhood through informing and organizing our members.

Next members' meeting

The Lyceum, 201 S Washington Street

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Time: 7:00 p.m.: Socializing with neighbors

7:30 p.m.: Program

Our guest speaker is Richard Lawrence, Alexandria's Special Assistant to the City Manager. He will present information regarding the planned installation of small cell wireless antennas and new poles on every block throughout the city including the historic districts.

We will also host Stephanie Sample, Historic Preservation Staff in Planning and Zoning, who will discuss the evolution and planned updates of the BAR Design Guidelines that were first developed and approved in 1993.

Small cell facilities are a type of commercial antenna used by wireless communications carriers like AT&T and Verizon. The purpose of the antennas is to expand coverage and increase functionality for mobile telephone and wireless internet users resulting in the coming “5G” standard of service. These antennas are not just a proposal or a pilot program; the value of the small cell market is expected to grow to $58.7 billion by 2024.

The FCC has defined "small wireless facilities" to be facilities mounted on structures of 50 feet or less; mounted on structures no more than 10 percent taller than adjacent infrastructure; do not extend the height of existing structures by more than 50 feet or 10 percent; antennas of no more than 3 cubic feet; and all associated wireless equipment of no more than 28 cubic feet.

The examples of antennas that the cellular carriers are showing are installed on top of light poles and depending on the design and brand, are approximately 6 feet tall and as big around as the wooden light poles themselves. I have seen pictures of bigger and more imposing ones however. Each antenna has a corresponding large electronics box associated with it that will also be mounted on the pole. The antenna and electronics box are connected to a network of optic fiber cables which will need to be installed underground. This means there will be a lot of digging and construction coming our way also.

Each small cell unit has a range of only 200-500 feet which means that each carrier will need install one or two per block. There are six carriers so far interested in placing these all over Alexandria and their equipment is not compatible. If they all proceed as they have announced they would, we may be looking at the installation of 6-12 antenna stations per block.

The FCC and the State of Virginia have supported the carriers interests in deploying these antennas. They have given the right of way on public property for the project and directed Dominion to facilitate the project. Within the last several years, new Federal and State legislation has limited our City government’s input on how the installation of these antennas will proceed. The City of Alexandria must comply with these new laws and permit the installation of these antennas with minimized input in a timely manner.

The FCC’s Declaratory Ruling on Accelerating Wireless and Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment of September 2018 established two new "shot clocks" that give a timeline of 60 days for reviewing applications to collocate on existing structures, and 90 days for new builds. The ruling reads: "We would thus expect any locality that misses the deadline to issue any necessary permits or authorizations without further delay. We also anticipate that a provider would have a strong case for quickly obtaining an injunction from a court that compels the issuance of all permits in these types of cases".

In the 2018 legislative session Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation which directs essentially that the FCC’s ruling to be the law statewide. The result is that when a cellular provider makes an application for the installation of these devices, Alexandria's city staff has no option but to comply and quickly approve the project.

State law gives staff and commissions a little more influence in shaping how this enterprise will be implemented within the historic districts. Those of us that live in historic districts may be more able to influence the locations of new poles or the design of the antenna and electronics box. OTCA will have to be attentive and ready to work with Staff and the BAR on this. We will all have to be alert and make an effort to reduce negative impacts of this project on the streets of our neighborhood.

We hope to see you at the meeting and we hope you will invite your neighbors.


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has begun its long-planned track work. Six stations on Metro’s Blue and Yellow Lines will be closed until September 8th : Braddock Rd, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave., Huntington, Van Dorn St, Franconia-Springfield.

For more information on alternative travel options, see


Join the Old Town Civic Association

Whether you are new to Alexandria, Virginia or have been in the community for years, we invite you to join us. OTCA has a special status in a city without ward politics; we are a collective voice for residents of Old Town on important local issues, and one respected by city government. The OTCA’s mission since our founding in 1951 has been to preserve the historic and residential character of Old Town, something we can only accomplish with the informed and active participation and support of resident members. OTCA is governed by Officers and a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The board and committees stay abreast of City issues that directly and indirectly affect Old Town and its neighbors, and communicate through our website, monthly newsletter, and emails to keep members informed of up-coming events. Board members represent Old Town residents' interests before City Council, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and other policy-making bodies. OTCA representatives also sit on City commissions, committees, and boards. To contact us, see: Officers & Board


Annual Membership fees are due in September each year

You may make a safe online payment by clicking this link.

You may also pay the $30 annual membership fee by check, payable to OTCA. Mail to: OTCA, P.O. Box 1213, Alexandria, VA, 22313. Please include your email address.

New members welcome. For renewing members, if you are not sure you are already paid up, email


Our meetings:

OTCA membership meets on the second Wednesday of each month in October and November, and January through June at the Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street. A half hour of socializing with neighbors starts at 7:00 pm. followed by the evening program and discussion at 7:30 pm. Programs cover a wide variety topics including presentations by City officials and other professionals on development and land use issues in Old Town, traffic and parking, City policies, and historic preservation.

Our volunteer organization needs your help with all of its efforts. If you have the time, energy and interest to help OTCA's work to preserve and advance our Quality of Life in Old Town, please contact us - To contact us, see: Officers & Board.

If you find our new web site does not look or work right on your computer, especially with respect to the online payment features, please contact us - Robert Ray,