Facing opposition from neighborhood residents, town officials said Wednesday that they’re withdrawing an application to erect a tower just over the Stamford border that had been designed to improve emergency radio communications in northwestern New Canaan.
The decision followed conversations that included the highest elected officials of both municipalities and a city representative of the north Stamford residents who live near a proposed monopole on Aquarion property, according to New Canaan Police Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini.
The upshot was that “it would be extremely unlikely that the city of Stamford would ever approve an antenna” on the corner of Reservoir Lane and Laurel Road (see map below), Sawabini said during a regular meeting of the Police Commission.
The development “was a major setback, sadly,” Sawabini said at the meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department.
“We have other locations that we had considered and rejected, but that we are reopening for reconsideration. Put it this way: The location we had chosen was ideal, in our opinion—for sightlines, topography, access, radio propagation—it was an absolute perfect location but politics won out in this instance, I think.”
Led by Sawabini and the commission and with support from First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, New Canaan for the better part of two years has worked on addressing a lack of coverage for the handheld radios that emergency responders take to the scenes of crashes, accidents, fires and other 9-1-1 calls.
As it stands, when “a police officer or firefighter or NCVAC volunteer leaves a vehicle with a handheld portable radio, there are areas of town where they cannot communicate back with their central base and that is a very, very dangerous situation,” Mallozzi told NewCanaanite.com in an interview after the commission’s meeting.
Weighing challenges of topography and accessibility with the desire to find a minimally conspicuous solution, town officials landed on the Aquarion property and applied to Stamford for a permit for a tower and antenna.
However, Mallozzi said, Stamford residents “came out in force” and argued that the proposed infrastructure wouldn’t benefit them at all—an impossible argument to win that was backed up by the prospect of legal action if the town tried to move forward, Mallozzi said.
“It was very clear to me that even if we’d had a chance of winning that one, there may be a long legal fight,” he said.
“In Stamford it is just a hard sell when you are asking another community to put something in their town that is of no benefit to them, it’s very hard to convince those folks,” he said.
Mallozzi added: “It’s a shame we are not a little more cooperative because I have certainly been very neighborly to Stamford in helping out with the water emergency, but in this case, it’s just an argument we cannot win.”
New Canaan now will “redouble” its efforts to see if there’s a location—or, more likely, multiple locations—that would address the coverage problem, Mallozzi said.
It’s a more expensive prospect that if the Aquarion tower had gone through, but “we are not giving up,” Sawabini said during the meeting.
The development comes as New Canaan faces the prospect that Aquarion will no longer allow the town to mount its major radio communications equipment atop the water towers at Waveny Park. Town officials have discussed whether to erect a standalone cell site nearby.