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Protest set today as Greens Farms cell tower balloon test is launched

Published 7:45 am, Tuesday, June 3, 2014
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"Not in our backyard, not in anyone's backyard."

That will be the rallying cry this morning for people planning to protest plans to erect a 120-foot-tall cell phone tower on Greens Farms Road near Hillspoint Road.

The protest is planned to coincide with plans with a "balloon test" at the proposed 92 Greens Farms Road location, which is designed to illustrate the potential impact of the structure.

Two balloons are scheduled to be launched about 10 a.m. today -- one will rise to 110 feet and the other to 150 feet -- over the property, according to Julie D. Kohler of Cohen and Wolf, the law firm representing North Atlantic Towers, which is the project applicant.

Local officials are also planning to monitor the balloon test, including First Selectman Jim Marpe, who last week announced his wants the cell tower to be built at a "less-intrusive" site.

The residential property at 92 Greens Farms Road is owned by owned by Pradiv Mahesh, who told the Westport News in February that he has agreed to let the tower be built on his 1.86-acre property if all the required approvals are granted.

Opponents of the project announced their plans for the protest in a press release issued Monday afternoon.

They promulgated five points on which they base their opposition:

1. Proposed site in a residential zone: Westport Reg 32-12 prohibits cell towers from being located in a residential zone.

2. Connecticut Siting Council: Unlike any other state, Connecticut has a siting council which determines location of cell towers and has the authority to override all local zoning laws and citizens' rights. CSC will not consider health issues related to EMFs or impact on property values in their siting decisions.

Hillspoint Daycare center (largest in Westport) less than 1,000 feet from proposed site. Federal and state laws prohibit towers from being located within 250 feet of school or daycare. How far is far enough for our most vulnerable?

Approval process is flawed: Existing paradigm in Connecticut has emboldened cell tower companies because of siting council approval bias and ability to override local zoning laws. Note June 3 balloon launch -- Westport First Selectman Marpe and AT&T "not notified, no official application has been filed for this site or any other site. Difficult to establish communication with North Atlantic Towers" (5/30 Westport News).

3. Environmental and Public Safety: Proposed site surrounded by wetlands and water runoff from surrounding areas into major culvert at the site location which flows directly into Signal Lake and the Sherwood Mill Pond. Site is located at heavily trafficked intersection of Greens Farms and Hillspoint roads, one of only two evacuation routes for beach residents.

4. Neighbors have talked with the property owners to try and change their minds regarding proposed location but owners are committed to moving forward for personal reasons.

5. Not NIMBY: Over 180 residents (and counting) from all over Westport have signed petition in opposition to locating cell towers in residential zones. " If it happens here -- it can happen anywhere in town."