The Connecticut Siting Council with a 4:2 majority voted on December 16 to approve the construction of a cell phone tower in the middle of a residential neighborhood at 118 Newton Road. In spite of valiant opposition from the neighbors and the town, the Council found that “the effects associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of a telecommunications facility…are not sufficient reason to deny the application.”
Verizon Wireless, also known as Cellco Partnership, is looking to improve wireless service along portions of routes 63 and 67, as well as Newton Road, including Amity High School and Alice Newton Street Park. It is planning to construct a 100-foot monopole on a 6-acre parcel at the property, located between Newton Road and Soundview Drive.
The company will lease the site from the property owners, the Soufrine Family Trust. According to the application, the tower will be located in a 50×50 feet fenced compound. The company would install up to 12 antennas and 12 remote radio heads on a platform at the top of the tower. It would share the tower with up to three other entities, but at least at the time of the hearing in July, there were no other interested parties. The antennas will extend above the top of the tower to a height of approximately 104 feet.
A propane-fueled back-up generator and a 500-gallon propane tank will be located within the fenced facility. Vehicular access will be from Soundview Drive.
At the hearing back in July 2021, which took place on Zoom, some 30 or so residents spoke in opposition to the proposal. They called the proposal an eyesore, and expressed concerns about what this project would do to their property values.
“We chose [to live in] this area for its proximity to nature and to hiking trails,” said Christine Edwards, adding that power outages and higher taxes are the trade-offs to living close to nature. “But I do not like living in proximity to a cell tower.”
Elliot Agin said he was appalled that the Siting Council would benefit a single resident – “without neighbors’ consent, by a process we have no control over.”
Similarly, Bruce Fraser raised two objections, one to the aesthetics of placing equipment in a quiet residential neighborhood; and the other concerning what he felt was the inherent unfairness of this proposal, with one party benefiting economically while everyone around them suffers the consequences.
The town hired a lawyer to represent it during the proceedings. It submitted a list of alternative sites, including the existing tower at the police station and the Public Works compound. But none of the alternatives worked to increase coverage sufficiently. A number of properties were too low, others too far, some had wetlands. The company agreed to lower the initial 140-foot tower to a 100-foot monopole; it also agreed to move the compound slightly within the property, should the owner consent.
A group of neighbors formed the Newton Neighborhood Environmental Trust (WNNET), which also hired a lawyer. “We are not against cell phone towers, but we are against cell phone towers in residential neighborhoods,” they wrote on a Go-Fund-Me page.
Jonathan Greengarden, who grew up on Soundview Drive, and whose parents still live there, addressed the Siting Council via Zoom. He recalled a “quiet, safe street, where I learned to ride my bike.” And he brought up the right of quiet enjoyment of a property, “which has clearly been taken away from them,” he said.
But in the end, the Council found that “the proposal would not cause unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction of the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state. The Council has considered all reasonable alternatives and finds that the proposal represents the best alternative consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety and welfare.”
Verizon said installation may take between five and seven months before it’s fully complete. The company refers to this cell site as its “Woodbridge North2 Facility”.
“The…facility will provide improved wireless voice and data services in north-central portions of Woodbridge, where reliable wireless service is either lacking or non-existent today.”
Go to https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/CSC/1_Dockets-medialibrary/1_MEDIA_DO500_600/DO502/ApplicantSubmissions/Application/09-Visual-Assessment.pdf to see a visual of the cell tower. Page 13, shows how it is seen from Soundview Drive.
By Bettina Thiel, Woodbridge Town News Correspondent