More than 100 digital signatures have been added to an online petition urging residents to oppose an early-stage proposal to improve cell service in New Canaan by installing towers in a public park and on school grounds.
Posted through a Change.org account with an anonymous username, the petition describes the proposed 110-foot towers as “gigantic monopoles”—though just what type of towers they would be, if approved, is undecided—that will spoil views and property values.
Though neighbors who attended a public meeting this week of the Utilities Commission—the advisory group of volunteer residents charged with proposing ways to improve cell service in New Canaan—put questions and concerns about the towers directly to its members, the petition makes the assertion that “the town will not allow the safety of these towers to be debated, believing that the government’s proclamation of their safety has laid that argument to rest.”
In truth, the Town Council is expected to hear from the Utilities Commission at its own April 20 meeting. During their meeting Wednesday night, members of the Town Council discussed the best way to sequence and accomplish the twin goals of supplying information to residents and soliciting their feedback—preferably in that order, in hopes that accomplishing one may improve the other.
Unsigned by its author, the petition appears under the rather ambitious username ‘New Canaan Residents, Tax Payers and Voters.’ It had garnered 129 signatures as of early Thursday evening, and among those who commented on the petition, more than 80 percent identified themselves as New Canaan residents. Many of the comments express fears about what those who wrote them describe as potential health effects of cell towers in proximity to a school.
According to the petition, some towns “have passed ordinances not allowing [cell towers] within 750 to 1,500 feet of a school or daycare.”
According to Danbury-based Homeland Towers LLC, the proposed tower on West School grounds would be located about 580 feet from the school building itself. In Connecticut, according to an April 1 report prepared for New Canaan by Homeland Towers (viewable here), at least 20 schools—from nursery schools to high schools, including in Wilton and Weston—have cell sites located closer to them than that, as follows:
Existing Cell Sites and Their Proximity to Schools
|Town||School||Tower Height||Distance from school buliding|
|Portland||Portland High School||105'||20'|
|Stamford||Brookdale Nursery School||55'||25'|
|Portland||Portland Middle School||80'||190'|
|Manchester||Illing Middle School||190'||190'|
|Weston||Hurlbutt Elementary School||95'||200'|
|Bridgeport||Central High School||144'||210'|
|Bridgeport||Warren Harding High School||50'||213'|
|New Haven||Yeshivas Beis Dovid Shlomo School||240'||253'|
|Bridgeport||Park City Magnet School||160'||270'|
|Tolland||Tolland High School||150'||289'|
|Oxford||Quaker Farms School||145'||327'|
|New Hartford||Ann Antolini School||120'||350'|
|New Britain||Pulaski Middle School||120'||400'|
|Burlington||Lake Garda Elementary School||50'||470'|
|New Haven||Yeshiva Elementary School||123'||482'|
|Killingwood||Killingworth Elementary School||165'||551'|
|Wilton||Miller Driscoll School||165'||571'|
|Waterford||Dual Language Arts Academy||180'||575'|
The list does not include St. Aloysius School in New Canaan, which is located one block from the Frontier building at Cherry and Main Streets.
The petition floats a question as to whether, when a prospective resident visits New Canaan, whether that person will “choose the town with the cell towers looming over its elementary school and parks, or just drive on to Darien or Greenwich or Westport?”
The unsigned petition includes an uncaptioned photo of a poorly made, conspicuous cell tower. It asserts in capital letters: “There are other ways to improve cell phone coverage.”
Accomplishing exactly that has been a priority of New Canaan’s volunteer Utilities Commission for many years. The draft proposal to site the cell towers at West School and Irwin Park (with a better option at the New Canaan Nature Center, commissioners have said)—follows a fundamental change in the way the town went about landing on a proposal for improving cell service. Namely, New Canaan hired consultants to map the town’s coverage needs—rather than relying on carriers or tower developers—and looked to town-owned property rather than private land as possible sites for cellular infrastructure. According to the Utilities Commission, that gives New Canaan more control over the final design and height of proposed cell towers, which must be approved by a state agency in addition to municipal officials.
The draft proposal to site the cell towers at West School and Irwin Park (with a better option at the New Canaan Nature Center, commissioners have said)—follows a fundamental change in the way the town went about landing on a proposal for improving cell service. Namely, New Canaan hired consultants to map the town’s coverage needs—rather than relying on carriers or tower developers—and looked to town-owned property rather than private land as possible sites for cellular infrastructure. According to the Utilities Commission, that gives New Canaan more control over the final design and height of proposed cell towers, which must be approved by a state agency in addition to municipal officials. Right now, the commission is waiting for digitally created images that will show what a proposed cell tower would look like at each site.
The petition urges New Canaanites to write to the selectmen and councilmen with their concerns, and to push for alternatives to cell towers as a way to boost service.
“Many, many towns have found these solutions,” the petition said. “People do not move to a town for good cell reception, they move to New Canaan for its excellent schools, beautiful parks, and its small town New England charm.”