By John Schwing
WESTPORT — The controversial cell tower proposed for Greens Farms Road, a project strongly opposed by neighbors and town officials, faces a two-part hearing next week before the Connecticut Siting Council.
The 124-foot-tall tower, which would be erected on a residential lot at 92 Greens Farms Road if approved by the state agency, will be reviewed Tuesday, Aug. 9.
The online hearing, conducted via Zoom, will take place in two sessions:
- At 2 p.m., an “evidentiary” hearing is set to hear testimony from the tower applicants — New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC, doing business as AT&T, and Tarpon Towers II LLC — as well as from intervenors. Comments from the public will not be allowed during this segment of the hearing.
- At 6:30 p.m., the siting council will hear comments from the public, with statements limited to three minutes each.
The full application and related filings on the hearing docking are posted are the siting council’s website.
How to comment at public hearing
Anyone can watch the hearing via the Zoom link, but those who want to comment for the hearing’s record must register in advance.
People who want to comment via computer, smart phone or tablet should send an email to email@example.com, with their name, email address and mailing address by Aug. 8. To comment by telephone, leave a voicemail message at 860-827-2935 with name, phone number and mailing address by Aug 8. Public comments also can be submitted to the council by email or by postal mail at 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.
Cell tower plans generate static
The cell tower plan has generated local opposition since 2014, when it was initially proposed for the 1.9-acre, privately owned residential property at 92 Greens Farms Road.
The proposal was later withdrawn before going through the formal regulatory process.
Last year, however, essentially the same plan for the cell tower was revived. It prompted then-First Selectman Jim Marpe to say, “I am dismayed that this proposal for a cell tower installation at the same location that the town reviewed seven years ago has returned.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Marpe’s successor, First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, who has repeatedly said a residential site is inappropriate for a cell tower. “I continue to have concerns about locating a public utility on residential lots such as 92 Greens Farms Road, and am urging officials to consider alternate sites,” Tooker said in a recent statement.
A fruitless search for alternate sites
However, in the formal application filed by the tower developers in late May, they said they held off filing formal plans for eight months while “working in good faith with the town” to consider other locations for the tower.
The other sites included an office complex at 55 Greens Farms Road, property owned by Eversource at 197 Compo Road South, Assumption Cemetery at 57 Greens Farms Road, the Nyala Farms office complex and two parcels owned by the state Department of Transportation on Hales Road.
“In each instance the alternative sites proved to be unavailable because property owners would not agree to lease their properties for purposes of a cell tower,” according to the application.
Tooker, just before the plan was formally filed in May, suggested an alternate tower location on state-controlled railway property. But it was turned down by the state Department of Transportation.
Despite local opposition, state agency has sole authority
Since the proposal was revived last year, neighbors and officials have pressed their case against the project, stressing that a large cell tower should not be located on a residential property not far from a daycare center and elementary school. (Click here and here for background reports on local opposition to the plans.)
The filed plans say the 124-foot-tall tower, in addition to antennas for AT&T and Verizon, would have space for two more wireless carriers. It would be set inside a 35-by-64-foot fenced equipment compound, within a 2,500-square-foot area leased from the property owner.
While town officials and residents can weigh in on the cell tower proposal at the Aug. 9 hearing and with additional written comments, the siting council has sole authority to rule on the application.
John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.
The full notice for the Aug. 9 hearing by the Connecticut Siting Council follows: