‘It Would Encompass All Cellphone Towers’: Selectmen Williams, Corbet Push Again for Reinstitution of Utilities Commission

Saying the town should avail itself of the vast expertise among local residents, especially in light of a divisive proposal to erect a cell tower behind West School, Selectman Nick Williams on Tuesday pushed for the reinstitution of a volunteer body that focuses on utilities. 

The Town Code calls for the establishment of a six-member Utilities Commission, Williams noted during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen. Under Section 12-4, the Utilities Commission “is created for the purpose of monitoring the activities and operations of public and private utilities servicing the residents and businesses of New Canaan to ensure that the needs of residences and businesses located in New Canaan are adequately met and that New Canaan’s consumers’ interests are represented before any applicable commission or agency having jurisdiction over the utility in question.”

While First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that the mission is outdated and can only be updated by the Town Council, Williams said it’s “pretty broad.”

“It would encompass cell phone towers, which I am increasingly coming to the belief that these are antiquated things—150-foot-tall monopoles or whatever you call it—for my purposes seem outdated,” Williams said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. He added, “To be clear, I’m not coming out against the West School tower. What I’m coming out for is to reconstitute the Utilities Commission.”

“What is your opposition to having an independent Utilities Commission, populated by very bright people in town?” Williams said. “We’ve got 20,000 people in this town, surely—in fact, I know two or three by name who have come to me and said, ‘I would like to be part of a Utilities Commission.’ And certainly if you look at the statute, it would encompass cellphone and tower usage.

Town Sues State Over Denial of Affordable Housing Moratorium

Changing a strategy laid out six months ago, the town on Friday sued the Connecticut Department of Housing over its denial of an application for relief from a widely discussed affordable housing law. The agency’s denial was “fundamentally flawed because neither the law nor DOH’s own past precedent supports the interpretation now relied upon by DOH,” according to an administrative appeal filed Dec. 2 in state Superior on the town’s behalf. The Department of Housing “has prejudiced the substantial rights of the Town” because its decision violated state law, according to the complaint, filed on the municipality’s behalf by lawyer Nicholas Bamonte of Berchem Moses PC, the town attorney’s firm. The agency “ acted contrary to its own past practice and procedure under analogous circumstances,” Bamonte said in the six-page complaint.

Feds Find Dozens of ADA Violations at New Canaan Public Facilities

Federal officials in an investigation regarding violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act have cited dozens of barriers to access at public facilities throughout New Canaan. Launched last summer, the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation led to an “on-site survey” of five public facilities in New Canaan in May, according to a Site Survey Report issued Oct. 7 by Diane Perry, an architect in the DOJ’s Disability Rights Section. The investigation at the five facilities—Waveny House, Town Hall campus, Mead Park, Firehouse, Waveny paddle courts and hut and playing fields at New Canaan High School—yielded a total of 109 citations, according to the report, obtained by NewCanaanite.com. 

The barriers range from what appear to require small changes, such as new or relocated signage, to substantial infrastructure projects, such as entirely new accessible routes where none currently exist or changes to the slope of walkways and ramps already in place. In some cases, the DOJ cited barriers following very recent projects.