This is to confirm that a Lease Option Agreement has been signed with Homeland Towers (the town’s selected cell tower provider) for a potential cell tower at 183 Soundview Lane. The LOA requires a cell carrier to sign-up as sponsor in order for anything to happen. No carrier has signed. If a carrier does sign up, then the town will have the opportunity for input. After the input period, a cell tower site application may be made to the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC). The CSC has complete control of cell towers in Connecticut and established this process. There is no other process and there have not been any shortcuts in the process.
Under the Lease Option Agreement, a cell tower with a maximum height of 85 feet could be constructed. The tower is required to be of the newest and best faux-tree design with three branches and foliage per foot to conceal all external antenna in the form of a “faux” evergreen tree native to Connecticut. The faux branches will start at 20 feet and extend to as much as 5 feet above the tower to achieve complete concealment and natural appearance. The cell tower will look like this (at right).
The faux tree won’t look at all like the terrible one on the Hutch and will be much nicer than recent one constructed in North Salem, N.Y. It will be surrounded by evergreen and deciduous trees, some reaching 65 feet or more. Compare the maximum (including camouflage) height of 90 feet to the 140 foot water tower and 120 foot towers on 123 and at Silver Hill.
In May 2017 the journey began when I was asked by then Councilman Kevin Moynihan if I would mind having a cell tower at Saint Luke’s School (SLS) since it is next to my home. I understood immediately the attractiveness of the location because Soundview Lane has one of the highest elevations in New Canaan and the cell service in the area is terrible. I responded to Kevin that I would mind and that if there had to be a cell tower in the area, I would prefer it be on my property so I would have control for its location, size and appearance. Kevin suggested that I contact Ray Vergati of Homeland Towers, the tower company that has contracted with New Canaan, to understand the current state of affairs and my options. I did so and Ray (Homeland Towers) confirmed that there had been a discussion with SLS. I was also told that the woodsy area we have that adjoins the upper SLS playing fields would be a good site for a cell tower and they would be interested in entering into discussions.
I called Rob Mallozzi, then First Selectman, to tell him of my dilemma. Rob was supportive and suggested that I contact Tom Tesluk, head of the Utilities Commission, a cell tower expert and someone who attended the meeting with SLS. Rob also gave me access to Cityscape, the engineering firm advising the town regarding cell service. Tom Tesluk confirmed that there had been a meeting with SLS but would not divulge the details as this was a private meeting. I was not at the SLS meeting and will never know exactly what was said at the SLS meeting or meetings. The point is that I did believe that SLS would entertain the idea. It was with that fear that I began my investigations and tentative discussions with Homeland Towers.
Tom Tesluk said that better cell service in our area was important and confirmed that our location had been identified as an optimal site by Cityscape. Tom provided a copy of the excellent public presentation that the Utilities Commission had prepared. I then contacted Cityscape and had the first of many discussions with them. They told me that SLS and my property were “the best sites in New Canaan” for a cell tower because of its elevation, topography, and isolation.
I also learned from Cityscape that only the Connecticut Siting Council has control over the approval process for cell towers. The town has the opportunity to provide input once a lease has been signed by a carrier and a landowner. In fact, I read many of the site applications that are available in the CSC public records.
I spent weeks researching the health aspects of cell towers. Obviously, the health issue was critical as we are talking about a potential cell tower that would be a few hundred feet from our home, whether at SLS or on our property. Some people have characterized the results of the studies on the health impact of cell towers as “inconclusive” but my view is that these studies are as conclusive as any good science can be. Frankly, I can’t understand how anyone who can read can believe that there is any credible health concern. The position paper of the American Cancer Society concludes “most researchers and regulatory authorities do not believe that cell phone towers pose health risks under ordinary conditions” and a Harvard Study which states that because “a cell phone needs to operate at greater power for its signal to reach base stations further away. This leads to more radio frequency exposure to the cell-phone users when base stations are widely spaced. When phone users are close to towers, the cell phone will emit signals at lower power, which means less radio frequency exposure to a user, so more towers generally reduce a user’s radio frequency exposure.” “To date, there is no consistent scientific evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radio frequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating.”
Cityscape provided me with the output from their work to determine the minimum height that a cell tower could be at our location and still serve the area. I was advised that the absolute minimum height was 85 feet so that became the maximum height that we would accept and an essential part of the on and off negotiations with Homeland Towers.
I also researched cell tower design and found that it has progressed significantly and that new designs are available that provide excellent concealment. The new faux trees are virtually indistinguishable from a large evergreen tree which is optimal for a site like mine that is surrounded by trees. I confirmed with Tom Tesluk that this design would be optimal in providing coverage (versus the flagpole design on 123). This became another requirement of the lease negotiations with Homeland Towers.
My goal has been to only allow a tower design that none of my neighbors can see from their property (aside from SLS) or if they can see any part of it, that they see it from hundreds or thousands of feet away and it looks just like a tree that fades into the landscape which is full of trees. The goal was also that no one’s property values would be affected negatively. I think these objectives were achieved and that if the subject cell tower is ever built, there will be no impact to our neighborhood.
Note that 183 Soundview is over four acres, is roughly triangular and the property on two sides of that triangle are owned by SLS. The other side is at the opposite end of the four-acre lot. The potential site is on the corner of the property along the border with SLS across from the SLS playing fields and surrounded on the other side by our large woodsy area. The cell tower will be a considerable distance from any neighbor other than SLS. The Connecticut Siting Council has issued rules regarding the required distance from school buildings and the potential site more than complies with those rules.
I negotiated with my neighbors’ best interest in mind as my concern was, and remains, that someone will agree to a 110-150 foot ugly cell tower on our street in order to obtain more carriers and more rent. I prepared a long and detailed presentation for my neighbors to inform them about the potential cell tower but wanted to wait until a carrier had signed on before releasing it. That did not work out as someone mentioned the negotiations to my neighbor, Hugh Wiley. Since then I sent my presentation to Hugh and my other neighbors and tried to explain the situation to them via multiple emails. I have offered to have neighborhood meetings at my home.
The negotiations were between me and Homeland Towers. I asked Kevin, Rob, Tom and the others who were aware to not disclose the negotiations because nothing might come of it and public discussion could make the process more difficult than it already was. Everyone shared the view that a cell tower to serve this part of town would be a good thing, would dramatically improve cell service in the area, which will make it safer and could in fact improve property values. My investigations and the negotiations went on for months and for a long time it was not clear whether anything would ever be signed. The final height and design details were only agreed by Homeland Towers before the holidays after months of negotiations. Again, the Lease Option Agreement is essentially a framework that requires a cell carrier to sign up. Then there is the opportunity for town input and then submission to the Connecticut Siting Council. That is the process in Connecticut.