Cell tower must begin construction within 18 months to go forward
Updated 3:56 pm, Thursday, February 16, 2012
Another cell tower project may be moving forward in New Canaan, this time behind Silver Hill Hospital at 208 Valley Road. The Connecticut Siting Council issued T-Mobile a certificate of construction, maintenance and operation Feb. 2.
"T-Mobile will have 18 months to construct and begin operation of the facility," Christina Walsh, siting analyst for the council said. "Prior to beginning construction, T-Mobile must file a Development and Management Plan with the construction details."
However, that plan has to be approved by the siting council before any construction can begin.
"The Siting Council reviews and approves the (Development and Management Plan) but the Town of New Canaan and any parties or intervenors must also receive a copy," Walsh said. "After we receive the (Development and Management Plan) it will go on a council meeting agenda. It has to be approved by the council before construction can begin."
The proposal, which has been in place since 2010, made headway after the council reviewed all the necessary pieces of the application including proof it would not effect environmental, public health and other standards.
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"Based on the record in this proceeding, the council finds that the effects associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of the telecommunications facility at the proposed site, including effects on the natural environment; ecological integrity and balance; public health and safety; scenic, historic, and recreational values; forests and parks; air and water purity; and fish and wildlife are not disproportionate either alone or cumulatively with other effects when compared to need, are not in conflict with policies of the state concerning such effects, and are not sufficient reason to deny this application," the siting council's final decision report stated.
The council also commented on the visual impact of the proposed 120-foot monopole tower on neighbors and the signal strength coverage it would provide.
"T-Mobile and Cellco have each demonstrated a coverage gap in this portion of New Canaan, especially along Valley Road and Silvermine Road (Route 106) and surrounding areas," the report stated. "While some nearby residents would have views of the structure, the brown color of the tower and the fact that the antennas would be concealed will lessen the impact to those residents. This would not lessen that area from the proposed tower would be seen but would make the proposed tower less obtrusive to those areas."
Recent storms have caused the emergency personnel in town various problems, which were exacerbated by low cellular reception. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said while he is not directly involved with the decision making behind proposed cell towers, he would support the initiative.
"If it does happen, it certainly helps in achieving my goal of increased cell service for the emergency and data needs of our town," Mallozzi said.
Many town officials agree with Mallozzi and have repeatedly said they would support increased cell service. Selectman Nick Williams commented on the matter last year during the election.
"I believe the town needs more cell towers to increase coverage," he said. "This is not only a convenience issue but a safety issue."
The safety issue is what resident Geoffrey Pickard is most concerned about. Pickard has been pushing for more cell service in town for a long time and believes a tower near Silver Hill is a good idea. He recalled instances in the past where emergency calls in New Canaan take long or are relayed elsewhere because of bad signals. In fact, he believes the town would need three more cell towers in order to get the coverage neighboring towns enjoy.
"A town as affluent as New Canaan should not in any way be subjected to having them deal with `possibility' that their call won't go through," Pickard said. "That is nonsense."