One possible cell tower site in Shelton draws opposition

An AT&T proposal to put a 120-foot-high cell phone tower off Perry Hill Road, near Wooster Street, Meadow Street and northern Walnut Avenue, has generated some opposition.

As an alternative, the company has proposed installing a 120-foot-high tower near the southern end of Walnut Avenue, a dead-end road.

There appears to be less opposition to the southern Walnut Avenue location option (Site B), which is more isolated and therefore not as close to nearly as many homes as the Perry Hill Road location (Site A).

Other roads near Site A include Beardsley Street, Kings Highway, Regan Circle and Sandy Lane as well as the Huntington Heights condos.

Both towers would be on land leased from the Highland Golf Club, which operates a golf facility with nine holes in that vicinity. AT&T is seeking to build only one tower.

Representatives of AT&T (New Cingular Wireless PCS) recently gave a presentation on the proposal during an informational meeting at City Hall. About 100 people attended the meeting, including various public officials.

Some individuals spoke out against Site A because of its proximity to many homes. Some think it’s possible AT&T might now drop Site A and instead pursue Site B.

State agency to make decision

Cell towers do not need local approval from zoning or wetlands commissions. Instead, the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) has the authority to approve or turn down cell tower applications.

City officials may make recommendations on certain parts of a CSC application, but have no regulatory power.

No application has been made by AT&T for either site yet, and the City Hall meeting was intended to inform the public about the possible locations and to get feedback.

The meeting was done on a voluntary basis by AT&T, at the suggestion of Mayor Mark Lauretti. The mayor’s office informed many nearby residents about the meeting.

If an application is made, CSC would eventually hold a public hearing on the proposal in Shelton.

“This is the first step of many,” Rick Schultz, Shelton P&Z administrator, said of the City Hall informational meeting.

Providing reliable cell coverage

An AT&T representative said the company is seeking to provide better phone coverage in that part of town.

“AT&T believes that every resident of Connecticut should have access to reliable voice service,” said Chuck Coursey, AT&T Connecticut spokesperson.

“Accordingly, we’re working to provide needed reliable cell coverage for our customers in Shelton and will continue to work with local and state stakeholders as we move forward toward that goal," Coursey said.

Neighbor: Put in commercial area

Frank DeAngelo, who lives on northern Walnut Avenue near Site A, said he worries about the aesthetics, property value depreciation and radio frequency issues.

“I’m definitely against it,” DeAngelo said. “It should be in a commercial area and as far away from residential areas as possible. The neighborhood already exists.”

He said Site A would be extremely close to three of his neighbors’ homes. “It would be right next to them,” he said.

DeAngelo said people at the City Hall meeting made their opinions known. “Now they know what the public thinks,” he said. “Nothing positive was said about Site A.”

He is grateful to AT&T for holding the meeting and the city for informing residents about it. He now hopes the company will continue to be transparent if a proposal moves forward.

“If you’re doing something in our neighborhood, all we ask is for a heads-up,” said DeAngelo, adding that Highland Golf Club has been a good neighbor through the years.

Mayor: 'I’m sympathetic to the neighbors'

Lauretti attended the informational meeting but did not speak. He said he opposes putting a cell tower in the area, especially at Site A. “It’s in people’s faces,” he said.

The mayor called Site B “more palatable.” He said he’s unaware of any problems with cell phone coverage in that neighborhood.

“What about the people who have to live with these things?” Lauretti said. “I don’t believe they should be put in the middle of residential areas, so I’m sympathetic to the neighbors.”

Golf club’s perspective

Ned Rydzy, Highland Golf Club president, said the club was approached by AT&T last summer.

After the company did some further research, the two sides negotiated a possible agreement.

“It was done reluctantly, but we’re a private club and we need the money,” said Rydzy, a Shelton resident who lives next to the other side of the golf course.

He attended the City Hall meeting but did not speak. He said club officials really are observers in the process, with AT&T choosing the potential sites and handling the application.

Site B does appear to be more “out of the way” for most nearby residents, said Rydzy, stressing that what location might ultimately be pursued is up to AT&T.

Public safety

During its presentation, AT&T representatives stressed how improved wireless service “is essential to the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

They said mobile data traffic is expected to grow at an annual rate of 66% through 2017, and that 70% of 9-1-1 calls now are wireless.

The representatives said reliable service is needed in the city near Bridgeport Avenue, Route 8 and Route 108, and one strategically placed tower could fill the need. They said various new sites were researched before selecting Site A and Site B as possibilities.

Site impact with on-ground equipment

AT&T would need to lease a 100-foot by 100-foot area in either location to erect a monopole. They would build a 50-foot by 50-foot area for ground equipment for Site A, and 75-foot by 75-foot for Site B.

Site A would be accessed by a 70-foot-long gravel driveway from Perry Hill Road, while Site B would require a 250-foot-long gravel driveway from southern Walnut Avenue.

The presentation said there would no direct impacts on wetlands, but there could be an environmental issue with a rare species. “AT&T will develop and implement a protection plan acceptable by [state environmental officials] during construction to avoid impacts,” the company said.