NEW CANAAN — The lack of adequate cell service in town has been a constant issue and a Soundview Lane resident has confirmed plans for a potential cell tower to be built on his property.

Keith Richey, of 183 Soundview Lane and chairman of the Parking Commission, has confirmed he has signed a lease option agreement with Homeland Towers that could lead to the construction of a cell tower on his property if a cell service carrier signs up to sponsor, something that has yet to happen.

“Nothing happens until a carrier signs on and the town will have the opportunity to provide their input to the application,” Richey said. “That process hasn’t even begun yet because there is no carrier and no set timeline. The carriers are independent businesses and they will evaluate the terms that are available and see if they want to participate.”

The application Richey refers to is one that will be made to the Connecticut Siting Council, a state agency that has jurisdiction over telecommunication facilities.

An application is filed once the town builder secures an interested carrier to provide service followed by a 90-day consultation period between the applicant and the highest elected official, in this case First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, to explore alternative sites that may be available according to Executive Director of the Connecticut Siting Council Melanie Bachman.

More Information

To view Keith Richey’s full press release, visit: http://soundview-sensible-cell-tower-policy.com

“Once the 90-day consultation period expires, the interested parties bring an application for certification to us and we receive it and provide notice to the town,” Bachman said. “After an analyst reviews it and makes sure it’s complete, we put the matter on a regular meeting agenda and a three-part public hearing is scheduled in the host municipality.”

The three-part public hearing is composed of a public site review, an evidentiary hearing for the council to cross-examine the applicant and a time for public comment. Bachman added that any approved applications usually come with “substantial modifications” from the council.

Neighbors have responded to Richey’s plans swiftly with many disapproving of the way in which they found out. A Facebook page titled “STOP the Richey Cell Tower” with over 50 followers has been created and op-eds have appeared in other town newspapers in opposition to the potential tower.

Reached Tuesday morning, Hugh Wiley, the neighbor who initially found out about Richey’s plans, said he was “astonished” when he heard about them. “This is a very great concern, it sets a precedent for future cell towers on private property and there are many issues with the tower that could be harmful to one’s health.”

Along Soundview Lane, the majority of neighbors have propped up signs denouncing the plans for a cell tower. Steve Sosnick, another resident of Soundview Lane, is an active member of the Facebook group.

“We had no idea of this contract Richey signed with the cell tower company, we found out by accident and realized this had been in the works since August of last year,” Sosnick said.

Sosnick referenced Richey’s position as chairman of the Parking Commission and that he had discussed the idea with various town officials. “This has a bad scent to it — a town official secretly negotiation at the behest of other town officials and cutting out neighbors out of it, this bothers us,” Sosnick said.

According to Richey, only he was involved in direct negotiations with Homeland Towers regarding the cell tower on his property.

The proposed cell tower, which would resemble a tree, would be 85 feet high, with five feet of concealment material, totaling to a maximum height of 90 feet, according to Richey’s press release.

Sosnick said he sympathizes with residents’ concerns regarding inadequate cell service in the area but the process through which Richey negotiated irked him. “The idea of doing this through secret negotiations that benefits one well-connected homeowner and utilizing the technology that may become obsolete in the near future seems like a foolish way.”

Some residents have voiced their approval of the tower.

Chris Schipper, who lives in the northeast part of town, said that the health and safety of residents is important. Schipper alluded to the nor’easter that occurred last weekend as an example of when cell service would be crucial and helpful.

In meetings with local media, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said he could not comment on private residents’ dealings with Homeland Towers. In December last year, Moynihan had said that private and public land could be potential sites for cell towers.

Richey said that he got involved in negotiations with Homeland Towers because he had become aware that St. Luke’s School had engaged in discussion with town officials and Homeland Towers.

When reached for comment, Head of School Mark Davis said that St. Luke’s is not and never was in negotiations with the Town of New Canaan or any cell tower provider with the plans of placing a cell tower on their campus.

“In April 2017, the town requested and was granted a meeting. They presented facts about the need for cell coverage and cited safety concerns. St. Luke’s expressed strong reservations about the use of our campus and the conversation ended. The town brought Homeland to the meeting we had with them, but this was not at our request and there was no further discussion after that meeting,” Davis said.

Richey said that St. Luke’s meeting with the town and Homeland Towers caused him to take action.

“When St. Luke’s didn’t have further negotiations after their meeting in April, that’s because I deliberately thwarted their further negotiations by getting involved and presenting our property as an alternative,” Richey said.

According to Richey’s press release, he began exploring a bid to have the cell tower on his property in May of last year. Richey discussed the idea with then Town Council member Moynihan, then First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, former Utilities Commission Chairman Tom Tesluk, Homeland Towers and CityScape, an engineering firm hired by the town.

“People should take into consideration that the town Fire Department and Police Department have identified this as a safety issue for this area,” Richey said.

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com