Westporters Rally Against Cellphone Tower Proposed For Residential Area

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Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a proposed cellphone tower.
Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a proposed cellphone tower. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe speaks to those gathered at the side of Greens Farms Road on Tuesday to protest the proposed cellphone tower.
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe speaks to those gathered at the side of Greens Farms Road on Tuesday to protest the proposed cellphone tower. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
North Atlantic Towers, owner of the proposed cell tower, is still investigating the Westport site and on Tuesday was conducting a balloon test.
North Atlantic Towers, owner of the proposed cell tower, is still investigating the Westport site and on Tuesday was conducting a balloon test. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a planned cell tower.
Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a planned cell tower. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a planned cell tower.
Dozens of people gather at the side of Greens Farms Road in Westport on Tuesday to fight a planned cell tower. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

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.

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Actually, as currently planned, this will be a fairly invasive and dominating tower in a residential area. It does not need to be like this, as there are options that would allow the services you desire to be provided via equipment that could be co-located on existing infrastructure/poles. The FL based non-service providing tower developer has no interest in working with the community to site and build appropriately to provide the services you desire while respecting the neighbors who would be impacted. The larger the communication tower, the more space they can lease to carriers to locate additional equipment. Finally, the topography and obstructions in lines-of-sight make it questionable that the beach will get strong and consistent service without the carriers electing to install muy powerful transponders, so they can penetrate and power past whatever they need.

What I find interesting is the NIMBY mentality that pervades our county. We all insist on having and using the latest and greatest electronics, gadgetry, etc. But when the infrastructure is visible, it becomes an "eyesore" and protests ensue quoting things like "fallzone". Fairfield county had some of the shoddiest cell coverage in the country, and in fact on the globe. It's time to get on board with the 21st century and stop dragging our feet and creating excuses. When you can speak with someone on the summit of Mt. Everest and not from the beach areas of Westport and Fairfield, it's time for a change.