Application for Cell Tower in Northeastern New Canaan Poised to Move Forward; AT&T on Board as Carrier


On hold for many months, a formal application for a widely discussed cell tower proposed for a private property in northeastern New Canaan is poised to move forward, as a service carrier is now on board with the project, officials say.

This is what the cell tower planned for a private property at the end of Soundview Lane would look like. Contributed

Proposed by Soundview Lane resident Keith Richey early last year, the 85-foot-high “monopine” tower would host equipment from AT&T if approved by the state agency that oversees telecommunications, according to an Oct. 1 letter to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

Submitted on behalf of AT&T as well as Homeland Towers, a wireless infrastructure consulting firm, the letter describes the project at 183 Soundview Lane as “the result of years of review to provide wireless services to the northeastern portion of the town.”

“As you probably know through your own experience, the exponential growth in consumer use of mobile data and overall network demands requires the development of additional wireless infrastructure to reliably serve the public,” said the letter, from attorney Lucia Chiocchio of White Plains, N.Y.-based Cuddy+Feder LLP. 

The proposed tower “would provide reliable 4G LTE service to over 1,000 residents in the area and several miles of main and secondary roads,” the letter said.

The cell tower itself would include “faux branches extending another 5 feet above the top of the monopine within a fenced compound in the northwest portion of the 4.05-acre parcel.”

“AT&T’s antennas would be placed at a centerline budget height of 81 feet with equipment installed at grade within the compound. Should the town EMS, fire or police services have a need at this location, they could be accommodated as well. The tower and fenced compound are designed to support the antennas and equipment of other FCC licensed wireless carriers. The facility will be unmanned with no sanitary or water facilities and will generate an average of one vehicle trip per month by each carrier at the site, consisting of a service technician in a light duty van or truck.”

The letter is followed by a lengthy “Technical Report” that includes a survey of the sit and specifications of the proposed tower, among other details. 

AT&T’s signing up for the project as a carrier triggers an application process outlined in state statute, which requires input from the town or city where a proposed tower would go. If New Canaan chooses to have a “information session” on the tower, it must be held on or before Dec. 2, the letter said. With local input in hand, the application would go to the Connecticut Siting Council.

When Richey disclosed his plans for the cell tower in February 2018, one of his neighbors, Hugh Wiley, objected to the proposal, saying it had materialized without transparency and suggesting that alternative sites should be investigated. 

Richey’s property is located at the end of a cul-de-sac and sits at an elevation above St. Luke’s School, an abutting neighbor. The school’s headmaster has said that St. Luke’s has never been in negotiations to place a tower on its campus—an assertion that Moynihan himself denied. 

The Richeys have “put up a with a lot with St. Luke’s School, with their expansions, and I think that is their reaction to why they wanted to do this,” Moynihan said during a press briefing held Oct. 3 in his office at Town Hall.

“I know for a fact St. Luke’s negotiated with AT&T for years,” he said. “They deny it, but I know from the lawyer from AT&T that they had long discussions. The AT&T lawyer’s daughter goes to St. Luke’s School, so the facts of that should not be in dispute.”

Though he stopped short of saying he supported the Soundview Lane cell tower specifically, Moynihan when asked about the project said he supports a tower in northeastern New Canaan.

“I am all in favor of a tower, wherever the carriers can get approved,” he said.

After Richey’s plans became known, P&Z discussed how the appointed body may influence applications for cell towers on private property, and settled on adding some new language in the New Canaan Zoning Regulations (see page 166 here). It says that those applying to the Siting Council “are strongly encouraged” to meet with P&Z to review the need for the facility, alternate sites and the location of schools “and places of public assembly” nearby. 

According to the letter, “Connecticut state policy generally recognizes the need for new towers to serve the public and has designated the Connecticut Siting Council as the state agency with responsibility for reviewing and approving specific tower proposals.”

“The Siting Council will evaluate this project once an application is filed with the agency. The Siting Council’s evaluation is focused on balancing the need for a tower on a case by case basis with any significant adverse environmental impacts. Jurisdiction over any proposed cellular telecommunications facility rests exclusively with the Siting Council and would be in lieu of local zoning, wetlands and other types of municipal land use review and approvals.”

Moynihan said he expected to respond to the letter after reading through the materials.

“It’s long been in the works,” he said of the proposed cell tower.

4 thoughts on “Application for Cell Tower in Northeastern New Canaan Poised to Move Forward; AT&T on Board as Carrier

  1. Finally, after decades of community discussion, consulting studies and regulatory reports, we are on the verge on having much improved cell service in northeastern New Canaan. This is a big improvement in the quality of life for all the residents of the area, and to those driving through who need use their mobile phones. I, for one, would like to welcome all those residents into the 21st century.

  2. There are important counterpoints to many of the issues raised in the article. The points are ordered as responses to assertions made in the article. Think of them as annotations or footnotes:

    1. The article references an 85-foot-high monopine tower. While that is factually true, and there is said to be a limit of 90 feet in the contract, subsequent carriers can ask for it to be raised. A total height of 100 feet or more is possible.

    2. There is already a radio facility at St. Luke’s to service EMS, fire or police services for the area. The offer to accommodate them sounds nice but is likely unnecessary.

    3. Omitted from the article is a discussion of the 2000 square foot building at the base of the tower. It will be roughly the footprint of a house, placed along the street in a corner of Richey’s property. Zoning rules would prevent a shed at that location, let alone a large building. This is hardly a consideration that can be ignored.

    4. Will the town in fact hold an “information session”? If not, what are they afraid of?

    5. Hugh Wiley is just one of the neighbors who objected to the cell tower – all of them did (and still do)!

    6. Regarding the Richeys and St. Luke’s, there is a long history with allegations on both sides. These came to a head in 2013 during the zoning discussions regarding St. Luke’s most recent expansion. The neighbors formed a group negotiating bloc, which the Richeys opted out of. The dispute became public at a P&Z meeting on March 5, 2013. This is well documented if you skip to the 1:18 mark of the following video:

    7. I’ll let the administration of St. Luke’s tackle this. Mark Davis sent a letter to St. Luke’s families responding to Kevin Moynihan’s contention that “St. Luke’s negotiated with AT&T for years”. A highlight of Davis’ letter is “The First Selectman’s behavior is unethical at best and slanderous at worst.”

    8. While P&Z discussed how they may influence applications for cell towers on private property, they did not discuss this specific project. The proposed amendments to the zoning code were discussed at a meeting on April 18, 2018, and the minutes state “the Commission is not focused on a proposed cell tower on Soundview Lane”. This clearly demonstrates that previous P&Z discussions do not demonstrate a public hearing on this matter.

    9. At best the town is pushing this off to the CT Siting Council. At worst, they are actively subverting any checks and balances inherent in that process

    • Thank you for submitting your comment, Steve.

      I’ll respond to the one point you make here that really refers to our reporting.

      Re #8: I don’t see where we assert in the story that P&Z held a public hearing on the proposed Soundview Lane Cell Tower (and as you know, it is not in the Commission’s power to approve or not approve such plans). With that said, I attend P&Z meetings, and I remember the one where the Commission discussed updating the Zoning Regulations with Glenn Chalder—it was held in the second-floor board room at Town Hall, not the large meeting room, so it wasn’t televised—and there was no question that the conversation was driven by this specific proposal on Soundview Lane.

      Thank you again.

  3. Michael – indeed you did not specifically assert that point in your article, but I refer you to the minutes that are attached in the link I supplied. I quoted Commissioner Goodwin directly from those minutes. While the Richey tower was clearly the “elephant in the room”, Mr. Goodwin forbade discussion about that project’s specifics. I clearly remember Hugh Wiley and I modifying our comments (which are also in those minutes) in response to the Commissioner’s directive. P&Z cedes final approval power to the CT Siting Council, but they are entitled to a consultative role. Considering that this situation could be repeated throughout our town, it should justify the need for a public discussion.

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