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.
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.