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Neighbors braced for battle over cell tower

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					Neighbors braced for battle over cell tower

By ANNA GUSTAFSON

Hour Staff Writer

WILTON, October 27 — Outraged by a recent application filing for a 140-foot
communications tower on Deer Run Road in Wilton, over 50 families have mobilized to
form the Wilton Environmental Trust [WilET] coalition.

WilET's stated purpose is to "preserve the environmental integrity, safety, and historic
scenic beauty of our community by preventing the expansion of telecommunication
towers on residential property."

"For the last 35 years, I've dealt with the constant stress, noise, radio, and television
interference of living 175 feet from a structure that we were told was being erected
temporarily to provide a service for the land developer to communicate via a paging
service with his workers," Louis Medico of 154 Deer Run Road and member of WilET
said. "All of the families on Deer Run road want to know why we have been continually
targeted for more antennas when the area is residential."

Medico further blames the tower for the cancer he was diagnosed with 23 years ago.

Three communication companies — Westport Broadcasting Company LLC, Optasite,
Inc., and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC — are seeking approval for increasing the
height of an existing cell phone tower on Deer Run Road from 100 feet to 140 feet. The
Siting Council, which has jurisdiction over the matter, will decide on Nov. 3 whether it
will hear the case.

Connecticut Siting Council Executive Director Derek Phelps said the process is likely to
extend well into next year, as the council has yet to even set a hearing date.

The companies have proposed two options for the tower in their Application for a
Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need: Build a replacement 140-
foot lattice tower, or put an additional 140-foot monopole alongside the existing structure.

Residents oppose the tower, citing safety, lack of investigation into alternative solutions,
health impacts, non-compliance with local zoning regulations and a lack of demonstrated
public need for better coverage.

New Haven Attorney Keith Ainsworth, who is representing Wilton residents, cited three
"major" problems with the application.
"They say there is a community need for this, but there is already telephone
communication in that area," Ainsworth said. "Two, they have absolutely misrepresented
the viewshed impact — it's replete with errors."

Ainsworth said the plans aren't in compliance with local planning a zoning ordinances,
and could land on neighbors if the tower were to fall.

Despite the companies' claims that the tower would be engineered so that it would fall in
an accordion manner and would not fall into any residents' yards, residents remain
concerned about effects the tower will have on their safety.

"The companies are being sneaky — this is all about greed and money for them, not
about being responsible or cooperative with the neighborhood that they'll be affecting,"
Jennifer Collias, who lives next to the current tower, said. "Even though they say it
wouldn't fall on us, how can they be sure?"

First Selectman Paul Hannah said the town is prepared to fight the application —
particularly the proposed height of 140 feet.

"We're not going to give up," Hannah said. "The tricky part of this is that people still get
coverage, but it's just not the best possible coverage. Why, though, do we need the best
possible coverage?"

Cingular stated in its application that a 140-foot tower is needed to provide the "best"
coverage.

Town Planner Bob Nerney said that while there is a recognized need for better coverage,
alternatives to a 140-foot tower need to be investigated.

"There are other options; new technology has emerged that uses fiber-optics and the co-
sharing of equipment which results in a smaller tower with various relay points
throughout the neighborhood that takes the form of a much less obtrusive tower," Nerney
said.

Despite nearly unanimous disapproval from Wilton residents and town officials, the
companies have argued that the town needs improved cell phone coverage through a
tower at that specific location.

"This spot is the best place for a tower that will help the public's safety. There's an
existing tower that was here before many of the houses," attorney for Westport
Broadcasting Dennis Morrissey said. "We don't think that it [the tower] will have the
dramatic impact that a lot of people fear."

Applicants said they need to increase coverage in order to comply with the Wireless
Communications and Public Safety Act [the 911 Act] of 1999, which aimed to promote
public safety through a nationwide emergency communications infrastructure.
"As an outgrowth of the 911 Act, the FCC specifically mandated wireless carriers, such
as Cingular, to provide enhanced 911 services [ "E911"] as part of their communications
network," the application states.

Wilton Police Chief Edward Kulhawik agreed that better cell phone coverage would help
the town's emergency systems, but "that doesn't mean that I'm for the cell phone tower.
There needs to be a balance between good coverage and what people want — nobody
wants a tower in their back yard."

Anna Gustafson can be reached via email at agustafson@thehour.com

				
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