It's Thursday, our long day. The Town Hall (technically the Theresa Mulvey Municipal Building) is open from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM on Thursdays. Ten hours. This week, I have had night meetings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I'm moving a little slowly in the office this morning. I suspect that there will be a fair amount of posts to this blog on Thursdays, as over ten hours, there are periods that tend to drag, as much as I am probably not supposed to say that.
Back to the cell tower, mentioned in the last post. It's really not a "zoning" issue, per se. The Connecticut Supreme Court has made crystal clear that all local zoning is preempted by the jurisdiction granted to the State of Connecticut's Siting Council, sitting in New Britain. The Siting Council was created precisely because the Legislature rightly feared that local entities would prioritize local property owners' interests over the needs to have a state-wide cellular network. As a general rule, the Siting Council is designed to say "yes" to applications, with municipalities able to play around the edges, getting modifications or enhancements.
In the present case, Connecticut Water Company has had a tower along Boston Post Road for a very long time. It was no longer in use as an actual water tower, but various entities, including Verizon, AT&T and the Old Saybrook Police Department, placed antennae on the tower, which is at a convenient location for radio wave coverage. The tower was in disrepair, and Connecticut Water Company made the decision to dismantle it. But that left a hole in the radio coverage. So, a temporary, 160' tower was put up while options were sorted out.
Two options were considered viable by the company that leases out property and builds towers for these purposes. First, "option 1", was to just put up a new tower, 130' tall, at the location of the old water tower. This would be a monopole tower. It would be a smaller footprint than the old tower. Second, "option 2", was to move the tower further away from Route 1, to the north a bit along Kirtland Street, to property owned by Water's Edge. This would also be a 130' monopole tower. It would be less visible from Route 1, but closer to residences on Maple Ridge Road and Stone Hedge Road.
As part of the process of going to the Siting Council, the tower company is obligated to have a "pre-application" discussion with the Town, and, at the Town's request, must hold a meeting in the Town to review its soon-to-be-pending application. That's what happened Tuesday night at 6:00. This was technically a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, but the only item on the agenda was the presentation by the tower company to explain the two options and receive public input.
At the meeting, the options were set out, complete with a PowerPoint presentation the Town should be receiving shortly in electronic format to put on its webpage. Various members of the public spoke, including the Old Saybrook Chief of Police. There was some discussion about how or if there should be efforts to make the new tower visible to boaters in the harbor. A question from Selectman John Hall elicited the response that the monopole towers are designed to have "break points", so that should they ever fail they would bend at that predetermined point and not leave the leased property onto a public roadway or other private property.
The general consensus seemed to be that the new tower should go where the old water tower was. The Board of Selectmen took a vote to pass this preference on to the Siting Council. It was stressed that this was just a preference. The final decision will still rest with the Siting Council. The application will be filed soon, and there will be another meeting in Westbrook, by the full Siting Council, in the Spring, where the full Council will take further public input.