Shelton may be known for having a business-friendly approach, but the newest proposal for a cell phone tower at 1 Waterview Drive appears to have hit a nerve.
Ruth Parkins, city Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, said all the cell antennas on stand-alone cell towers and roof mounts are “literally littering our landscapes.”
Parkins said the antennas now are “in every neighborhood,” with 16 current sites and four proposals in various stages of possible development.
“We need to know when it’s going to end,” she said last week at a public informational meeting organized by AT&T, the newest possible applicant.
‘It’s out of control’
John F. Anglace Jr., Board of Aldermen president, also was concerned about AT&T’s proposal to construct a 120-foot-high flagpole tower on Waterview Drive, near Constitution Boulevard South.
“We’ve got cell towers next to each other,” Anglace said. “We have cell towers 200 feet from each other. It’s ridiculous. It’s out of control.”
Anglace said Shelton doesn’t need hundreds of cell phone towers, just “enough to get the job done.”
Neighbor worries about ‘unknown risks’
Kathleen Blair, who lives on nearby Plaskon Road, was worried about the possible long-term health effects of radio frequency emitted from cell towers.
Blair said there “are unknown risks associated with radio frequency transmissions. I’m concerned you’re putting this within 1,000 feet of homes on Plaskon Drive.”
Alan Fankhanel, who owns 10 Waterview Drive, the building across the street from the site, also asked questions about radio frequency.
Plaskon Drive runs between Constitution Boulevard South and Coram Road, and is the closest residential street to the site.
Eliminating buffer for nearby homes
Residents said they have already “sacrificed a lot” due to nearby corporate development, and that this proposal would create a new visual impact while eliminating part of the existing wooded buffer.
Alderman Stanley Kudej, who lives on Plaskon Road, was upset about losing trees and the potential dangers of radio frequency. “Whatever trees are there will go bye-bye,” he said.
When it comes to possible radiation from the tower, Kudej said, “we don’t know if this will kill us or not.”
How application process works
No application has been filed for the Waterview Drive proposal, which would be handled by the Connecticut Siting Council and not local land-use boards.
Stand-alone cell towers are regulated solely by the state, while the city has jurisdiction over roof-mounted antennas.
The informational meeting at City Hall was an early step in the process of AT&T potentially filing an application. The city also may submit comments on the proposal to the Siting Council.
About 25 people attended the meeting, including some aldermen and P&Z members as well as nearby property owners.
If a formal application should be filed, the Siting Council will hold a public hearing in Shelton. Anglace, saying AT&T’s technical report left many unanswered questions, said the city will hold its own hearing to seek public input on the matter.
There also would be a “balloon test,” where a large balloon is floated at where the top of the tower would be for most of a day to allow the public to see the potential visual impact.
Gaps in cell phone coverage?
Attorney Lucia Chiocchio, representing AT&T, said more people are depending on wireless devices for business, personal and emergency purposes.
Chiocchio and other AT&T representatives said more cell towers are needed to fill gaps in coverage areas. They said as more people use more mobile devices to conduct complicated wireless tasks, the coverage area of existing cell sites will shrink.
“There’s so much more demand on the network,” she said.
Kelly Bettuchi of AT&T said, “Everyone wants the service but no one wants the towers.”
Attendees said they have never had trouble getting coverage in that area. Aldermen Anthony Simonetti asked if there had been specific coverage complaints, and was told field tests indicated the coverage was “not adequate.”
Better coordination between carriers
Anglace and Parkins said the Siting Council needs to do a better job coordinating where the towers go, so carriers will share more towers rather than build new ones.
AT&T representatives said existing or other possible new sites near 1 Waterview Drive are either not plausible or less desirable.
Radio frequency emissions
As for radio frequency, Chiocchio said an applicant must make sure emissions are below a certain level, and with just the A&T antenna the new site would emit only about 24% of the maximum allowed.
The tower would be used by AT&T and possibly other carriers as well.
Chiocchio said a formal application could be filed in a few months and the project’s specifics may be adjusted based on feedback from the community and city officials.
It should be noted that AT&T still hasn’t filed an application for one of two possible cell tower sites on the Highland Golf Club in Shelton that surfaced early this year.
Equipment compound to be built
At 1 Waterview Drive, AT&T would lease space from the property owner to place a 50-foot by 50-foot equipment base compound for the tower, surrounded by an 8-foot-tall stockade fence.
To build the compound, some existing trees would need to be removed. There appear to be no environmental issues with the land, such as wetlands or endangered species.
A diesel generator would be placed on-site to provide power in case of an electrical outage.
The flagpole tower would be up to 48 inches in diameter. It would not have a flag on it, since that would bring maintenance and lighting needs.
Simonetti said the pole should have an American flag, and AT&T representatives indicated that idea would be considered.
Ben Caron, owner of a photo-modeling firm working for AT&T, said the tower wouldn’t be visible from that many nearby spots because of the area’s topography and tree cover.
Questions also were asked about the possibility of the tower falling down, and what would happen if technological advances eventually make cell towers obsolete.