Longstanding efforts to improve public safety radio communications in northwestern New Canaan are poised to take a major step forward, as the owners of an Oenoke Ridge Road property have agreed to seek permission for an inconspicuous antenna to be placed on an existing barn around the back of their house, officials say.
The antenna that would be placed on the four-acre upper Oenoke Ridge Road property would be just 20 feet high and three inches in diameter, officials say—used strictly for public safety communications (as opposed to, say, the type of “cell tower” that has been proposed for Soundview Lane and has drawn concern from some neighbors).
The Board of Selectmen at its regular meeting April 10 voted unanimously to approve a $1,500 contract for a “building location survey” on the property. The work, to be done by New Canaan-based RKW Land Surveying, is part of an early-stage effort to determine for certain whether the location is viable. Additional engineering work must be done prior to applying to the Planning & Zoning Commission for a special permit.
Efforts to improve the public safety radio communications in New Canaan long have been led by Stuart Sawabini, former chairman of the Police Commission.
The antenna itself—similar to a bus company antenna already in place on West School—will totally inconspicuous to passersby and neighbors, officials say.
“It wont be visible to anybody other than [through] their [own] back windows,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said in an interview with NewCanaanite.com.
The effort is purely driven by a need to improve handheld radio communications and will involve zero revenue for the owners of 982 Oenoke Ridge Road, officials said.
The property owners “have been extraordinarily generous with their receptivity to having the antenna attached to their barn,” Sawabini said in an email.
Though no formal agreement with the town yet has been drawn up, the residents “have indicated this would be a gift to the town,” he said.
“We believe this location, sitting high on Oenoke Ridge as it does, will provide the towns emergency services coverage for the northwest area of New Canaan,” Sawabini said. “This is an area where portable radio coverage is either completely absent or extremely poor. Obviously radio coverage is vital to all emergency services in town.”
As it stands, when a police officer, firefighter or EMT leaves a vehicle with a handheld portable radio, there are parts of town such as the northwest where they cannot communicate back with their central base—a dangerous situation.
Weighing challenges of topography and accessibility with the desire to find a minimally conspicuous solution, town officials had landed last year on an Aquarion property just over the Stamford line, and applied to Stamford for a permit for both a tower and antenna. That application was withdrawn in the face of stiff opposition from neighborhood residents.
The Oenoke Ridge Road site, already at an elevation, requires no such tower, just the antenna itself.
Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, a special permit is needed for a public safety antenna (see page 159 here).