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Greens Farms cell tower plan: Reception ranging from caution to opposition

Published 7:09 am, Monday, March 24, 2014
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Neighbors and town officials aren't all on the same wave length as planners of a 120-foot-tall cellular communications tower proposed on Greens Farms Road.

The new pole for wireless antennae would be erected within a gravel compound at 92 Greens Farms Road. The tower's wireless service provider would be AT&T.

The proposal has been discussed at a recent meeting of the Greens Farms Association Board of Directors, said Art Schoeller, the association president.

He said the neighborhood group is in a "wait-and-see pattern" regarding the project.

"Typically, it goes in three phases: Keep the radar up, research to see what's going on, and advocate for a certain position," he said of the association's process of taking a stand.

He said it might also mean meeting with "the right person and getting a dialogue going."

Schoeller said that there hasn't been any feedback after checking with board members that "this is not something to have happen."

He said that the group doesn't always "oppose all things," adding there is a "certain balance to achieve."

"Sometimes a service is needed," he said.

But Representative Town Meeting member Don Bergmann said he has concerns about the proposal. He said he believes that a 120-foot-tall tower proposed in a single-family residential neighborhood "will be a blight on that neighborhood, with adverse impacts far beyond the many homes and families that live throughout that locale of Westport."

He said the visual blight will be obvious, but "other blight aspects can be expected, like the decline in the appeal of the neighborhood, reduced home values, people wanting to move, wetlands and water course issues and yet-to-be-documented adverse health effects."

In addition, Bergmann wondered what will happen to the tower if built and, "as is most likely, after several or many years, cell tower technology is replaced."

"Will the tower remain, simply to rust?" he asked. "Technology is apparently already underway seeking to replace these dinosaurs known as cell towers"

Finally, he said, "of crucial importance to all Westporters, as well as those who visit our beaches from out of town, will be the visual impact of this tower rising well above the tree line of its locale."

"It seems certain that many, many feet of the tower will be visible rising and visible above the trees as one walks along the sidewalk at Hillspoint Road at our beaches," he said. "Right now, the tree line in that direction, indeed in nearly all directions at our beautiful coastline, is unobstructed," he added.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said the town hasn't received an official proposal for the tower's construction from North Atlantic Towers, the company proposing the project.

However, he added, "We are making sure we understand the alternatives available to us and how we might react to them."

Marpe said the town also wants to ensure "high-quality cell phone service," but "at the same time, we want to make sure that they are located in sites that are least offensive to the neighbors."

The lawyer for North Atlantic, Julie Kohler of Cohen and Wolf, said a technical report on the site is currently being completed. That report will include environmental compatibility of the proposed tower and its design, among other items.

Once the report is completed, it will be submitted to the town, she said. But she did not have a target date for its completion.

Michael Libertine of All Points Technology (APT) Corp. in Killingworth, a company collecting data for the proposal, said it's currently in "a holding pattern" because the harsh winter weather "held up tests at the site."

The site at 92 Greens Farms Road is owned by Pradiv Mahesh, who said he has agreed to let the tower be built on his 1.86-acre property, pending the required approvals. "I guess they felt this is a good location," Mahesh said in a previous interview.

"We don't know what will happen here yet," he added at that time. "We haven't gotten any particulars. That will all happen somewhere down the road."

A legal notice for the plan, published Feb. 14 in the Westport News, stated the monopole would be built by North Atlantic Towers and set within a 35-by-64-foot fenced, gravel compound.

The legal notice also said comments and/or questions to APT would be accepted within 30 days of the publication -- no later than March 12.

But Libertine said the deadline for submitting comments regarding any potential effects of the project on historic properties has been extended for the time being. "It's open-ended at this time: it's very flexible," he added.