Cell Tower, Anyone?
by marcia chambers | Nov 29, 2010 12:19 pm
AT&T and North Atlantic Towers have agreed to postpone filing a new Short Beach cell tower application before the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC). The 120-foot cell tower, to be erected at the rear of a parking lot at 171 Short Beach Rd., is roughly 200 feet from the main road, according to town maps.
First Selectman Unk DaRos sought the delay after residents expressed outrage over erecting a cell tower in a residential neighborhood. He gets one month.
About half dozen residents spoke their minds at an emotional community meeting at Orchard House last week. Orchard House itself has been considered as a site for a cell tower but Orchard House is on town owned land and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) vetoed the idea. Other sites along Short Beach road also have been considered and rejected either by the company or the town. When a private owner expressed interest, the cell tower companies thought the project might be a go—even though it is farther down the road.
Short Beach is one of the communities in Branford with little or no cell phone coverage, either for conversation or internet access. As much as many residents want the service, they so far have balked about putting a gigantic cell tower in their own backyards.
Sal Grazio, who lives two doors away from the proposed cell tower site, witnessed a weather balloon go up at the precise location. He told the Eagle that the cell tower would be placed in a 50-foot space toward the back of parking lot that is home to Air, Inc., an air conditioning and heating company. It would sit where a group of trucks are parked. (See photo above.) The back of the company’s parking lot abuts preserved woodlands of the Foote Family Trust and the Branford Land Trust. The proposed cell tower lies in the heart of an otherwise residential neighborhood.
DaRos attended the meeting and the next day asked the attorneys for the cell tower companies to delay by 90 days their submission to the CSC, a submission that sets in motion a rigid legal process. Attorneys had planned to submit the application last Wednesday.
The first selectman didn’t get his 90 days but he did win a 30-day reprieve. Lucia Chiocchio, of Cuddy & Feder, the White Plains, N.Y., law firm that represents the companies, wrote that “as a courtesy our clients have agreed to defer filing of their state Siting Council application until January 3, 2011.”
Chiocchio asked DaRos for alternative sites by Dec. 10 and included in her request again trying to lease a portion of Orchard House property for construction of a cell tower. She said the town could request changes to the “form of the tower,” that is, the design, and that information should be provided by December 23rd. Originally, the tower was supposed to be 90 feet high.
Terry Elton, the town’s development director, says he will be looking at other sites. There may also be changes made to this one as the town and its recently formed cell tower advisory panel review this latest Short Beach proposal.
Chiocchio and her group attempted to present an overview of the project, using power point presentations and maps. But members of the audience interrupted, asking a variety of questions including whether the companies might use smaller antennae and whether it would remove the cell towers if newer technology arrived. While the companies didn’t rule out smaller antennae, not every neighborhood wanted smaller outcroppings on utility poles, one official said.
During the past year, Branford has been hit with at least eight proposals for new cell towers, all of varying heights. One cell tower project slated for Pine Orchard, and situated on private property, is now underway. Another at the Medlyn farm near the Branford-Guilford line is also under consideration. Yet another has been proposed in Stony Creek.
Virtually all the residents at the community meeting learned for the first time about the authority of the CSC. They also learned for the first time the limits of local law. They also learned that while they might have some say in the design of cell towers, typically most cell tower applications go through.
Grazio said he was most surprised by how little authority the town has in this situation. “I cannot believe you cannot stop the Siting Council. I think if the town really didn’t want it someplace, the Siting Council would back down. I think the town is tired of all these meetings and they are looking to get a few cell towers here and there to shut everyone up.”
Grazio, who lives two doors away at 161 Short Beach Rd., was not considered an abutting neighbor even though his back deck has a direct view of Air, Inc’s parking lot and the truck area where the cell tower would be built. “I can look out my kitchen window and I would be looking at the tower,” he said.
A third homeowner, who lives directly across the street, knew nothing about the meeting until “someone put a notice on my front door.” Candace Temeyer, whose living room would face the tower, said residents learned of the meeting that day. There was no direct notification of the meeting, she said.
“Where do we go with our concerns?” she asked.
Doug Marsh, the chair of Cell Tower Advisory panel, told Temeyer to consult with the panel. The town has also hired a consultant to help steer it through the proposals.
Like the prior residents who voiced opposition to cell towers in their area, these home owners protested the damage that would be done to their views, their way of life and their property values.
“This is all about making a profit; it’s about greed,” said Grazio. In a subsequent interview he said he found it odd that Wayne R. Krasnow of East Haven, who has an option to build the cell tower on his property, did not attend the meeting.
Last April, the state House of Representatives voted unanimously to change the way the siting council does business, mandating that it consider miniaturized technologies instead of gigantic cell towers. The bill introduced by State Reps. Lonnie Reed, Pat Widlitz and Deborah Heinrich, who represent Branford, Guilford and Madison, communities along the shoreline, ran into trouble in the state senate on the last day of the term. Reed said in an interview she plans to re-introduce the bill when the legislature convenes in January.
“I’ve got citizens from all over the state clamoring for legislative relief from this newest proliferation of tower proposals to keep up with entertainment downloads, Skype face-to-face conversations, live sports, infinite numbers of ‘Aps’ and other Smartphone offerings. We know that all the easy industrial and big highway sites are gone. Neighborhoods and scenic areas are the new cell tower sites.
“We know less impactful, miniaturization technologies are possible when it comes to delivering cell signals. Places such as Martha’s Vineyard have them. Telephone utilities are making a fortune with these more expensive service contracts. We need the Siting Council to recognize this new reality and to encourage delivery systems that respect neighborhoods and scenic treasures. Yes, I am introducing a bill and our bi-partisan, statewide coalition is active and growing.”
If and when this cell tower application gets to the CSC, which oversees the telecommunications infrastructure and is supposed to balance both the needs of the public and the desires of private industry, it will do so under a new executive director. Linda Roberts, a former first selectwoman from East Windsor and an executive assistant at the state Department of Consumer Protection, was appointed to the position in August.
She replaces S. Derek Phelps, who directed the Siting Council for more than 8 years. He became the director of external affairs at the Hartford law firm of Updike Kelly & Spellacy in September. He said then he will be involved with government relations and business development. Translated, that means he will be a lobbyist. For whom is the question.
Post a Comment
Everyone wants great cell phone service, but don’t dear put that Tower near my Home.