Cell Phone Controversy Towers Over Green’s Farms

5 RTM members — including 4 from Green’s Farms, the center of this issue — sent this letter to “06880.” Don Bergmann (District 1), and District 5 members Seth Braunstein, Peter Gold,  Paul Rossi and John Suggs write:

An AT&T cell tower may be located in a Residence AA Zone, close to the intersection of Hillspoint and Greens Farms Roads. The tower will be 120 feet tall. It would loom above the tree line at this “gateway” intersection leading toward our beaches. The address of the site is 92 Greens Farms Road, a private residence.

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The house on the left is 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

We write to engage the public, and to express our abhorrence of a 120-foot cell tower in a residential zone. A citizens group has been formed, and all avenues of opposition are being explored.

Cell phones are part of day-to-day living. They are convenient and, in emergencies, important. Nevertheless, the adverse impacts of a cell tower resonate with most citizens.

Cell towers generate health risks. Also, the size of cell towers, particularly their massive foundations, requires and impacts upon a large land mass.  That will be particularly so at 92 Greens Farms Road, since there are water courses that flow into a nearby pond and also under I-95 to the Sherwood Mill Pond.

The cell phone industry managed in 1996 to secure the passage of very favorable federal legislation. As implemented in Connecticut by the unfortunate creation of a State Siting Council, local communities are severely constrained in their ability to impact upon cell tower siting. Those constraints preclude challenges based upon the adverse effects from electromagnetic fields and radio waves generated by cell towers.

An AT&T cell tower.

An AT&T cell tower.

Those dangers, particularly for the young and those with certain genetic pre-dispositions, are well known, but must be ignored in any site determination by reason of the law. The law also pre-empts local zoning regulations, for example a regulation adopted by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission in 2000.

Our P&Z regulation makes it clear that Westport does not want any cell tower in a residential zone. Sadly, the law negates the effectiveness of our regulation, except as a public declaration by Westport in opposition to cell towers in residential zones. We believe Westport does not want a 120-foot tall cell tower looming above the trees at 92 Greens Farms Road.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is pursuing avenues that he believes appropriate. However, whatever the town undertakes, public interest and concern is crucial. We need to stop this before it gets to the Siting Council. So please join in this battle. Let us or others on the RTM know of your support. Even better, contact the citizens group by e mailing: notowerat92@gmail.com, or Hope Hageman, hhagema1@gmail.com.

Please engage. Like Joni Mitchell’s “tearing down trees for a parking lot,” this cell tower will also be a blight.

“06880” readers, what do you think? Dangerous? Unsightly? Necessary? An issue of one property owner doing what he wants with his property, or one where the wishes of a majority of neighborhood residents should take precedence? Click “Comments” — and please use your full, real name. If relevant, include your neighborhood too.



22 responses to “Cell Phone Controversy Towers Over Green’s Farms

  1. Good luck.
    I spoke at the Siting Council hearing when they were planning on a cell tower on a residential lot at Exit 41. They had a Hartford lawyer there telling us we could do nothing due to the law, a real estate agent saying that there would be no adverse value impact on the neighborhood, and an environmentalist saying that birds like to land on the tower and would be unaffected.

    They were rude to then attorney general Blumenthal and generally acted in a very callous way to all of the speakers.

    When Jodi RELL, then lieutenant governor, came to Westport I told her how rude they had been and she promised to look into it.

    I told the siting Council that I thought they acted like it was the GONG SHOW.

    Needless to say I and all the speakers were ignored and the tower went up.

    Somebody better get to Gov. Malloy real fast or the deal is done.

  2. Richard Farquhar

    Why not postiton cell towers on railroad property where overhead wires, tall towers and more are already displayed.

  3. While I can appreciate that no one wants to live near a cell tower, even the American Cancer Society has stated there are no known health risks associated with living near cell towers. Now, I realize that people claimed cigarettes were safe back in the day, but it’s currently pretty difficult to claim there are health risks associated with cell towers when scientific studies have shown the radiation emitted by cell towers is too low to cause damage.

    Not sure if this link will work, but it’d be worth taking a look: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/cellular-phone-towers

  4. Ellen Greenberg

    As Tom demonstrates, the law appears to be in favor of the cell companies. Arguing health concerns and aesthetics is futile. If the cell company wants a tower in that area they will get one. Our best option may be to find a location in the area that we find least objectionable and then fight like crazy for height limits and major landscaping.
    I live in the Compo area. I drive by this intersection frequently. My cell reception at home is terrible but would not be helped by this tower since I am on the other side of Minuteman Hill.

  5. It is next to the I95, overlooking the rail lines, so there are clearly worse places it can go.

  6. A local official, who cannot be quoted publicly due to ongoing negotiations, writes:

    Don is right. The laws really handcuff Westport from pushing back. And no matter how we push back, Hartford in its pomposity and disarray answers back, “Oh poor Westport!” (even though we send them lots of taxes). See articles on Fairfield County beach area Sandy victims being denied funds.

    The proposed cell tower is not in a tony neighborhood. It will be on the I-95 side of the Greens Farms Rd. property It is welcomed by the owners who want the hosting income (towers pay $5000 – $10,000 a month rent). Yes, 10 grand a month to host a tower in your back yard!

    The service is needed in that area. Anyone in Westport who passes that area has had dropped calls on Hillspoint and GF Rd. (Of course as a passenger, not a driver!)

    First Selectman Marpe and the P and Z have been working hard and smartly since this first came to attention, through a newspaper posting, NO one in government or at AT&T had the decency to contact Westport officials about the proposal. The current town attroney fought the last tower in vain, as Don described,

    And YES, town officials have been asking why the cell tower cannot go on the railroad towers that are already there.

    And finally, either railroad towers or where proposed the new tower is will not greatly improve coverage at Compo and Longshore. Ugh.

  7. Stacy Prince

    According to the World Health Organization, “There is no doubt that short-term exposure to very high levels of electromagnetic fields can be harmful to health. Current public concern focuses on possible long-term health effects caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields *at levels below* those required to trigger acute biological responses.”

    In other words, if it doesn’t kill you immediately, we’ll wait and see. Those studies showing connections to low birth weight in line workers? Feh. Links to EMF exposure and depression or cataracts? “Inconclusive.”

    Sound familiar? Public and private entities took the same approach with cigarettes and asbestos. That worked out well.

    Yet, according to Devra Davis, Ph.D., MPH, “On May 31, 2011, the World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with use of mobile phones.”

    If cell phones pose a risk, why wouldn’t cell towers?

    Oh, but don’t worry. There will be studies. Because, as the CT DEP says, “Most scientists agree that it is wise to continue research in this area.”

    In the meantime, ya can’t stop progress! Build those towers! Grow that economy! Once reach a critical mass of sick (or better yet, dead) people, and enough people sue, we’ll do something about it. Promise.

  8. Jo Shields Dickison

    Are cell towers carrier specific?

  9. Good Strategy

    If this is an AT&T cell tower I encourage you to totally skip the legal process, you won’t win in that environment; it will cost you a lot of money and time to lose in court.

    Count on the legislative process only as much as you can direct donations and votes according to representatives support/lack of support for your agenda; don’t be New England shy about this, i.e., tell your representatives (representatives who these companies rely on to support other legislation that they need) in a letter that you will direct votes and donations according to their support or lack of for your goal here.

    And absolutely go direct to AT&T investor, media and community relations and let them know that your goal is to stop this tower and what your strategy is, including a boycott. Why would anyone in Westport continue to be a shareholder or consumer or AT&T when a tower, the effects of which can cause cancer and other cell-abnormalities, is harming them?

    Good luck!

    (Full disclosure: I am part of a Washington, DC based public affairs and business development firm with offices in NYC; we have worked for both cell companies and with communities, including Wilton, CT tower that was built in the backyard of an elementary school; cell towers have to go somewhere but if you really don’t want it, follow the above).

  10. Stephanie Bass

    There are so many building restrictions regarding coverage/height/etc. on what can be built on your private property in Westport. Are there any restrictions that would apply to this huge tower?

  11. I don’t live far from the tower at exit 41 and have a young child. This kind of stuff scares the you-know-what out of me. Does anyone know what role proximity plays in those studies which have uncovered health issues? I tried looking it up online and only came up with one German study that said the most health issues occur within 400 meters (about a 1/4 mile) of a tower. Just curious if there’s an [un]acceptable distance to live from a tower. Thanks, in advance, for any info any of you can share.

  12. don bergmann

    As one of the signatories, I am welcoming your comments. I will provide some responses to questions over a bit more time. One point, I would like to stress is that Westport has a very well written P&Z Reg. that, in essence, would preclude a Cell Tower in any residence zone. The Reg. also sets forth many sensible requirements for Cell Towers to be located in acceptable zones. The Reg. is P&Z Regulation 36-12. Tragically, the combination of the 1996 Fed. and CT laws preclude our Town from using 36-12 to impact upon sites. However, the Reg. remains important as a public policy statement of Westport regarding Cell Towers and highlights that the concerns with the 92 Greens Farms Rd. site have nothing to do with NIMBY but, rather, are consistent with the position of our Town by this regulation to prevent a cell tower in any residential neighborhood.
    Don Bergmann,

  13. Stephanie Bass

    What is the name of the family? Place of employment? What organizations do they belong to? Religious affiliations?

    Can we start a letter writing campaign that includes people from their social life that addresses concerns about a cell tower being built in a residential neighborhood? Let the family understand how alone they could be after this is a reality.

    Real estate brokers can send them an estimate of the current value of the house and what the tower would mean to both the then value of the house and the difficuly in EVER selling it. Let an accountant make one of those charts that show how the possible $60,000 a year raises their total tax bill and lowers any chance of gains on the property to show that it isn’t such a great deal.

    This is just off the top of my head, but there are, I am sure, other arguments — not insendiary — that can be made clear to the family that could get them to re-consider their decision.

    Of course, these tactics alone is not going to make the problem go away, but if the community uses ever means available to stop this tower at this location, we have a chance of a win.

    • Why don’t you and all those who
      oppose the tower buy the house and turn down the $120,000 per year?

    • This real estate broker says good luck in selling a house with a back yard cell tower. There just has to be another way. Ask yourself if you’d buy one. Is it possible and cheaper to make your own hot spot and do internet cell phones?

      • There is no tower on the property now, and that is the point. Why don’t those who want to stop the construction of the tower buy the house and NOT enter into the deal for the tower. The opponents should put their money where their mouths are.

  14. Stephanie Bass

    Very helpful.

  15. Precisely. “Coase’s Theorem”

  16. Jeff Arciola

    Hey Stephanie, do you or anybody in your family own a cell phone.

  17. Ritter Friedrich

    fear mongering to justify not my back yard politics.

    done correctly cell towers are a non issue. Cell coverage is important to modern business and safety. I would not buy or rent in a home without coverage.

    yeah not quiet as pretty as a tree, but better looking than power lines or pot holed streets. And much more valuable to society.

  18. To the homeowner thinking they’re going to get 120K a year.. I would read the fine print. Someone I know was going to do it and what was promised and what was collected were two entirely different amounts. It totaled 17K a year.. and this was recently. For one thing, EVERY tower should have those green branches that make it look like a tree… and for another thing, there could be smaller units attached to tall trees so they don’t have to scar every neighborhood in the world. If there are no health problems, then put units on public buildings like schools.

  19. We’re fighting a proposed AT&T cell tower in a residential area in Ridgefield, backed by the Board of Selectmen. The hearing before the Siting Council is this Thursday. The only way to fight the industrialization of residential neighborhoods is for all of us to work together and speak with one loud voice: Ridgefield, Wilton, Washington, Greenwich, Easton, Danbury, Westport, etc.