Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Cell Tower Protest Draws Neighbors and Politicians
By Bonnie Adler
Two dozen Westport residents carrying signs saying “No Cell Towers in Our Neighborhood” protested today in front of a Greens Farms Road home whose owners have granted permission to build a cell tower on their property adjacent to I-95.
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe addresses today’s protest rally on Greens Farms Road. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Bonnie Adler for WestportNow.com
The protest at 92 Greens Farms Road at the intersection of Hillspoint Road and Greens Farms Road came as North Atlantic Towers floated two balloons, one at 100 feet and one at 150 feet, to show the possible height and obstructions of the proposed tower.
Sympathetic elected officials, including Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, Planning and Zoning Chairman Chip Stevens, and state Reps. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport, Gail Lavielle of Wilton, and Kim Fawcett and Tony Hwang of Fairfield, joined protesters.
All, who either currently represent Westport or some of its neighborhoods—or hope to do so after the November election—addressed ways to change any proposed plans to build a tower in the residential neighborhood.
Marpe expressed sympathy and pledged support for the residents while also acknowledging the limited ability of municipalities to dictate to the Connecticut Siting Council. The state agency is charged with the responsibility of finding locations for telecommunications towers, transmission lines, power facilities and hazardous waste facilities.
Because the Council preempts the authority of local Planning and Zoning Commissions, it has long been a focus of controversy as localities protest against their unilateral decision-making.
Balloons were floated over 92 Greens Farms Road today to show the height of a proposed cell tower. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Bonnie Adler for WestportNow.com
Marpe, who has already received a petition protesting the proposed tower with more than 200 signatures, said, “We have to balance the ever-growing needs of the population for cell coverage with the intrusion of cell towers in residential neighborhoods.”
He said North Atlantic Tower has not yet submitted an application to the Connecticut Siting Council, which means there is still some time to suggest alternate, more appropriate, locations within Westport for the proposed tower.
Steinberg said, “The Connecticut Siting council does not consider arguments which claim health hazards, reduction of property rights or aesthetic considerations, the so-called ‘NIMBY’ arguments.”
The Siting Council, by state statute, considers arguments about the best locations for a cell tower within a town, taking into account environmental considerations, including whether the proposed tower is in wetlands, and its “fall zones,” or where the tower would land if it fell down.
Marpe said he knew from conversations he has already had with North Atlantic Tower officials that several locations on the south side of I-95 are also under consideration.
Town Attorney Ira Bloom, who was also present at the protest, has had extensive experience with the Connecticut Siting Council over the past decade.
He told protesters to consider hiring consultants to opine on whether there is a real need for another cell tower, to focus on the environmental impact a cell tower would have, and on more acceptable alternative locations for a cell tower.
“These are all tough arguments,” he said. “More often than not, they don’t work.”
A news release from organizers of today’s protest outlined numerous reasons for their opposition, including the fact that a preschool is in the neighborhood.
It said “neighbors have talked with the property owners to try and change their minds regarding (the) proposed location but (the) owners are committed to moving forward for personal reasons.”