WESTPORT, Conn. – A call to protest cellphone towers in residential areas pushed dozens of concerned Westport residents to turn out for a rally Tuesday morning.
The proposed site for the cellphone tower sits on private property on Greens Farms Road. Last year, every house received a letter about the possibility of renting land for a new cell tower. Only one home answered the letter.
It wasn't just residents from the surrounding area who turned out for the rally. Members of the Westport Representative Town Meeting and the town's state representatives came to talk about what the proposed cell tower could do.
“I don’t think anyone of us are against the tower, per say, just the placement,” said RTM member Seth Braunstein. “There is a very obvious safety issue.”
The "fall zone" for the proposed 120-foot-tall cell tower is the surrounding roads of Hillspoint Road, Greens Farms Road and I-95. That could potentially block off one of two escape routes for the residential beach area.
For many at the rally, it's not just a matter of aesthetics. Resident cited a possible hazard to adjacent wetlands and declining property values as well as the fall zone hazards.
North Atlantic Towers, which is proposing construction of the tower, is still investigating the site. On Tuesday, it held a balloon test at 150 feet, which evaluated the proposed height of the tower for obstructions.
Resident Paula Luciani said the State Siting Council, which approves cell tower applications, is working from rules that date from 1996. Back then, more towers were necessary for cell service. But the State Siting Council can override local zoning ordinances, she said.
“The industry is doing densification,” Luciani said, explaining that it is a “fill in the blanks” approach for cellphone service coverage.
Because the Siting Council can override the zoning ordinances, residents can’t do much except be visible in their protests, said Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe. The town, however, is doing everything it can to stop the tower, he added.
“The question is that are there other locations near here,” Marpe said. Some sites north of Interstate 95 might be better than this one on the south of the highway, he said, because there are fewer houses farther away from the shoreline. It might be a better option for everyone, Marpe said.
For Westport state Rep. Gail Lavielle, the situation is disturbing.
“Clearly, there are a lot of people here that don’t want a cell tower,” said Lavielle a Republican.