A southern neighbor of Lewisboro is experiencing some very similar growing pains that may have more to do with Lewisboro beyond just a shared experience.
A proposed cell tower along the border with New Canaan could affect coverage for a number of Vista residents near the state line.
The site for the proposed 126-foot tower is in one of the poorest cell coverage spots in that area, the northwest section of New Canaan on 82 Puddin Hill Road, a street that straddles the Connecticut-New York state line. This property is on the south — or New Canaan — side of the street.
Though the proposed site is more of a private venture between a New Canaan resident and Verizon, the provider for the potential tower, the New Canaan Utilities Commission and Rob Mallozzi III, New Canaan’s first selectman (similar to a town supervisor), have advocated implementing additional towers to better New Canaan’s cell coverage, which is at about 25% now.
The tower itself would be 100 feet, but the total height would be around 126 feet to account for a wind turbine, which is a request from the property owner.
Utilities Commissioner Geoffrey Pickard said Verizon chose the Puddin Hill site because that part of town has poor coverage and is in a high enough location that it would have the required mile-and-a-half to two-mile range of coverage.
Mr. Pickard said a cell tower on Puddin Hill Road would significantly improve coverage in that area. Coverage maps show that the proposed tower would also extend significant coverage into the southern end of Vista, particularly long-term evolution (LTE) coverage, which is on the cutting edge of commercial cell phone service.
The tower have the capacity to carry four wireless providers and 15 antennae, with Verizon at the top of other carriers.
Because of discrepancies between New York and Connecticut’s proposed cell tower procedures, in addition to the varied effects topography can have on cellular service, the exact benefit the proposed cell tower would have on Lewisboro cannot be determined, said Ted Sohonyay, chairman of the Lewisboro Antennae Advisory Board. He said he could not comment on whether the proposed tower would interfere with the already operational cell tower less than a mile and a half away at the Vista firehouse, but he said that cellular service providers are familiar with these kinds of issues and have strategies for shaping signals to work with one another.
Not everyone is in favor of the proposed tower, however. About 20 residents from New Canaan and neighbors from abutting properties in Lewisboro gathered at New Canaan High School on Tuesday, Jan. 8, for a public hearing to learn more about the proposed site for the cell tower.
Most attendees spoke against erecting a tower that would be visible from their properties. The hearing was held by Verizon as an initial step in the approval process.
One of the most vocal opponents to a tower for that particular site is Grace Community Church, which is proposing to build a new church on Lukes Wood Road in New Canaan (which is connected to Puddin Hill Road). The proposed tower would be visible from the Grace Community Church property.
The church expressed concern of the adverse impact the tower would have on its overall project — which is to build a 900-person sanctuary, which would be part of a longer building called the River. The River.
Other residents urged Verizon to look at other sites or camouflage the structure into the landscape better.
Verizon’s attorney Kenneth C. Baldwin of Robinson & Cole LLP said the panel would review the information and concerns from attendees and explore other potential site options. He said once Verizon can proceed to the Connecticut Siting Council, the state body that approves new cell towers, all abutting landowners will receive a notice, and a notice will be posted in the newspaper. He said it generally takes the Siting Council about six months from the date the proposed site is filed to be approved or altered. The council will hold public hearings in town and conduct a balloon float so residents get a sense of the height and visibility of the tower.
Sanjit Shah, a Vista resident who lives on Puddin Hill Road, is opposed to the cell tower for a number of reasons, including potential loss of property value and health hazards. His main concern, though, is with the wind turbine being proposed as part of the cell tower.
“It apparently has nothing to do with the cell coverage,” he said. “It is being constructed at the request of the owner of the property.”
The wind turbine, with its massive rotating blades, would not only be an unsightly eyesore, he said, but also pose hazards to the environment and quality of life in the surrounding area.
“It will create noise on a fairly constant basis and will be disruptive to my right to the quiet use and enjoyment of my property,” he said.
In addition, wind turbines are notoriously hazardous for airborne wildlife, which is of particularly concern since there is a noted sensitive bat population in the area of the proposed site, Mr. Shah said.
Mr. Shah plans to fight the submission to the Siting Council.
New Canaan is looking into other sites besides the Puddin Hill Road location, but Mr. Pickard said he didn’t want to disclose those locations prematurely. However, he said, he is optimistic that within the next three to five months the town will have a better indication of two more plausible sites.
“It’s a process,” he said. “It’s slow, and we need residents’ views and opinions. That’s why we have public hearings. At the end of the day, I believe that safety has to be given extra weight.”
-with additional reporting by Reece Alvarez