‘A Major Setback’: New Canaan Officials Withdraw Application for Monopole in Stamford To Improve Public Safety Radio Coverage

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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.

4 thoughts on “‘A Major Setback’: New Canaan Officials Withdraw Application for Monopole in Stamford To Improve Public Safety Radio Coverage

  1. It is a sad reality, but a hard cold fact: The NIMBY effect is alive and well in virtually every instance of public change. An independent observer might rightly surmise that providing adequate communications capabilities to emergency responders would be a high priority. However, as this article highlights, efforts to do so have been met with a ‘Great idea, but not in my backyard’ response.

    In this case, if Stamford stands to gain nothing from the addition of this tower, we must assume their emergency personnel are not facing the same lack of communication. Therefore, I have to ask what method of communications are their emergency responders using? What is different between the way both communities operate?

    In the best interests of our entire community, there has to be a way to figure this out.

  2. Who in their right mind thought that dumping a blight on Stamford that would disproportionately benefit New Canaan wouldn’t generate some controversy? What exactly was Stamford supposed to gain by allowing it (were we paying them for this?).

  3. Where does this put the Pound Ridge option? That location did not seem to raise issues from neighboring property owners.

    If obtaining the land for this antennae (in a transparent, neighborly manner) to support the system is out of the question, perhaps the better investment is to retire the outmoded communication system to something more reliable, as neighboring municipalities claim to have done.

    In case you missed it, here is the petition against the tower:

  4. As a resident of the North Stamford neighborhood where this tower would have been erected, I first want to thank New Canaan officials for withdrawing this application. I don’t want Stamford to be perceived as not being a good neighbor, but it certainly seems that there are solutions that exist within New Canaan’s borders. Contrary to Mr. Sawabini’s statement, this tower would have been directly across the street from three houses, and in the sight line of many more in Stamford. So where it didn’t have sight line issues for New Canaan, it certainly did for Stamford. Leo, Stamford invested heavily in upgrading to a digital communication system following 9/11. This radio tower for New Canaan relies on analog technology.

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