Residents ask AT&T to find a different cell tower location

Eels Hill

Eels Hill

Residents opposed to installation of a cell phone tower on Eels Hill Road pleaded with AT&T representatives to look for alternate locations in commercial areas.

At the request of the Board of Aldermen, which is reviewing a lease agreement for the tower on city-owned property on Eels Hill Road, AT&T hosted a community meeting on July 10 at City Hall that was attended by about 30 residents and a number of aldermen.

The board may resume discussion of the lease at its Aug. 4 meeting, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The aldermen tabled the proposal at its June meeting.

Residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter at that time. Residents may also contact their aldermen in advance using the contact information on the city website: www.ci.milford.ct.us/board-of-aldermen.

City Attorney Jonathan D. Berchem opened the July 10 meeting by saying that state statutes require the Board of Aldermen to approve the lease agreement with AT&T before any further action can take place. Berchem said his office notified all neighbors within a set diameter of the tower, as required by state law.

“They [AT&T] want to hear from you, your questions and your concerns,” said Berchem. “The city has no official position on this.” He commented that if the tower were placed on city land, the city would have control over the tower.

Attorney Daniel Laub, who was representing AT&T, provided an overview of the project along with the process required to approve the proposed tower. AT&T would like to install a 135-ft. tall monopole antenna, adjacent to an existing 100-ft. tall monopole antenna on city-owned land on Eels Hill Rd.

The current antenna is used by Milford emergency services, including the police and fire department, but is too short to add AT&T’s cell phone equipment.

If the 135-ft. tower is approved and built, then the Milford equipment would be moved to the new tower, and the old tower would be removed. The tower would include room for other cell phone providers should they wish to lease space on it.

If the city approved the lease agreement, then AT&T would design the tower, and then go before the Connecticut Siting Council for final approval before constructing the tower.

AT&T would construct the tower, then give to the city, and then lease it back for a 25-year period.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously in favor of an 8-24 referral on the project at its Feb. 24 meeting. Such approval means the aldermen need only a simple majority to approve the lease agreement with AT&T.

Laub said when AT&T makes its presentation to the Siting Council, it will be asked what it did for a site search, including whether there was an existing tower and related infrastructure.

He presented a map showing AT&T’s existing coverage area and signal strength, saying that the I-95 corridor has good coverage, but further south toward the coast, signal strength and availability drops. Laub said AT&T projects a growth in wireless need from 1.5 extrabytes (EB) per month in 2013 to 4.4 EBs in 2015 and 16 EBs in 2018.

Laub said total radio emissions from the antenna would increase from the current 7.575% to 7.6 percent of the standards established by the Federal Communications Commission.

“We are not supposed to exceed 100 percent of that standard,” said Laub. “It is very, very low—under one-tenth of what is allowed by federal law. “WiFi in the home is generally 5 percent. This is not intended to be very powerful to broadcast long distances.”

Kelly Wade Bettuchi, director of external and government affairs for AT&T said this level is measured within the compound by pointing the antennas at the ground and having them transmit at full power.

Laub presented photo simulations of the existing and proposed antenna from various locations in Milford, showing some views from New Haven Avenue and Clark Hill Road, but no views from Cedarhust Lane at the Boston Post Road, or from Buckingham Avenue at Gulf Pond.

“One of the reasons we came to this site is that it seemed to make sense there would not be a lot of change,” said Laub.

Public Comments

The public comment portion of the meeting was a freewheeling session in which people called out from their seats, sometimes making comments overlapping those of the presenters or other residents. Residents expressed concern about potential health effects from radio emissions from the tower, the effect on property values, and safety concerns if the tower should fall.

Edward Vanchot of the 800 block of New Haven Avenue spoke extensively at the meeting, offering concerns about risk, liability and financial impact.

“Your problem is coverage. It does nothing for us. It only helps you. You are making it our problem. What do I care if your subscribers get disconnected?” said Vanchot.

Vanchot said the Eels Hill Road site has high winds, and that a tower at the site fell during Hurricane Irene. He said the tower could make it difficult for area homeowners to obtain FHA mortgages. He said the area gets more snow than the surrounding area and the city does not plow by the tower, making access difficult after a snowstorm. He also expressed concern about the length of the lease agreement.

Bettuchi responded by saying that a 25-year lease period is standard. With regard to safety, Bettuchi said the tower would be built to required safety standards. She said the site is monitored electronically at all times and maintenance takes place about once a month.

Bettuchi said AT&T would take care of plowing at the site. She said AT&T would require city permission to plow city streets to reach the tower property, as might be required following a heavy snowfall where city plows are overwhelmed.

Mary Gambardella of Shadows End Lane asked if AT&T had studied other possible locations. She said if the tower is too intrusive that AT&T should look elsewhere and suggested Research Drive as an option. Gambardella added that neighbors do not experience any reception problems in the area.

“If that tower comes down, it would come down God knows where,” said Gambardella.

Laub responded by saying that the state mandates limiting the proliferation of cell phone towers, hence the proposal for Eels Hill Road.

Bettuchi added to Laub’s remarks by saying, “Any given cell phone tower fills a gap in a certain radius. The tower has to be in the center of where the gap is. We look for available space in the area to fill the gap that is least invasive. If we see a tower, then go two streets over and build a new tower, then you have two towers.”

Bettuchi said when AT&T goes before the Siting Council, it has to present extensive documentation of all sites to show it selected the best area. Before it can make a presentation to the Siting Council, it needs a lease agreement.

Loeb said if AT&T proposed a tower on a nearby private parcel, the municipality would say, “‘Why not over here? We have an existing tower.’ We are asked tolook at existing towers.”

Dee Blackmer of Alpha Street said he cannot see the existing 100-ft. tall tower, but would be able to see the 135-ft. tall tower.

“You are destroying the home values,” said Blackmer. “If the existing tower fall, it will fall in my yard.”

Eric Fine, project manager for Northeast Communications, said the city asked him to evaluate the AT&T proposal for its effect on the city communications equipment on the tower.

“From our perspective, it is smarter for the city to support this and maintain control of the site, rather than get another tower,” said Fine.

Fine said the 100-ft. tower was built three years ago and that towers typically have a 30-year lifespan. Fine said the city’s equipment at the site has a seven to 10-year lifespan. He said the next generation of communications equipment would probably need more tower space.

“I have never had a problem getting up there after a big storm,” said Fine. “Somebody has been plowing the road.”

Fine said there are four towers on the site: the 100-ft. tall city tower, a federal tower that was used by the Coast Guard and is now used by the FBI, and two other smaller towers that are used by an amateur ham radio club.

Ellen Vanchot of the 800 block of New Haven Avenue expressed concern that she was not directly notified about the meeting, but found out about it when another resident came to her door. Vanchot questioned what health effects the tower would have on her three children. She said she has AT&T service, and has never had an issue with dropped calls.

Bettuchi distributed a one-page information sheet on potential health effects from cell phone towers. The information referenced studies from the FCC, the American Cancer Society, and the World Health Organization, all of which stated that there are no health concerns from cell phone towers.

“According to a report on cell sites, the ACS confirms that most scientists believe that cell sites and antennas are unlikely to cause cancer or result in heath problems.” This was on the information sheet from AT&T.

With regard to property values, Betttuchi mentioned a study from the National Association of Realtors, which showed that communities in high-speed broadband areas have a 6 percent higher property value.

Alex Murshtyn, site acquisition consultant for Centerline Communications, closed the meeting by saying, “We have considered many sites. This is the ideal alternative. There is a tower one mile to the west. It is too far away. We need a site half a mile away.”

 

 

Aldermen in attendance included Majority Leader Nick Veccharelli Jr. (D-2), Michael S. Casey (R-3), Chairman Philip J. Vetro (D-4), and Dora Kubek (D-5) and Bryan Anderson (D-5)

 

 

 

 

 

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  • No_Simple_Solutions

    I was a chief engineer for the Yale radio station in the early 1980s and never heard of an increased number of health problems among engineers working directly on the equipment. If cell phone tower transmitters were as powerful as at a radio station, there would only be a half dozen for the entire state.
    Cell phones are like radio or TV but on different frequencies.

    Towers are like telephone poles and have to be placed where people have phones. Why is a tower every few miles an eyesore but poles every 150 feet accepted?

    • ctdad

      With all respect, there are big differences between the two. Cellular phone networks utilize microwaves, like microwaves, radar, and wireless networks and are directional. On the other hand, Radio transmission is electromagnet radiation and made up of electrical and magnetic fields perpendicular to one another and spherical. But you are a chief engineer and know that already.

      • No_Simple_Solutions

        The effect of microwaves are in heating, not cell damage. In fact some studies have shown positive medical results from the very slight warming which is nothing compared to the radiation on a sunny day.
        If there were any peer-reviewed studies of a proven link or statistics about radar engineers we would have heard of them. What we get instead are blog posts from non-experts.
        Preventing AT&T from putting up a tower on high ground means they’ll need to build more of them to cover all of Milford.

        • ctdad

          Microwaves excite molecules in any organic material, that’s why you can heat foods. I’m no molecular engineer, but am pretty confident that any continued excitation of molecules, will eventually have a resulting effect. Just look at foods when you keep them in the microwave too long. As far as preventing AT&T putting up a tower, it is the right thing to do for area residents, who were not notified as stated in the article. There are issues with Eel’s Hill that go beyond RF radiation. Perhaps if you attended the meeting, you would know their intent, but like others, because it was not proposed in their backyard, there was no need to fight it. Well get ready, because you may need to do just that.

          • No_Simple_Solutions

            Who was in charge of maintaining the old tower that fell? Are any houses closer than the height of the new tower and therefore have the possibility of being hit? Older towers used more steel, were prone to rust and not as sturdy.

            Milford has already been used as an example of excess worrying and expecting the worst to happen in the book “Life Without Lawyers” on a different topic. One reviewer’s article referred to the Milford incident as “The Risk Of Avoiding All Risks”. (Many everyday tasks we do are far more likely to cause injury or ill health.)

            I’ve already spoken out in favor of a proposed nearby tower that wasn’t by my cell phone provider.

          • ctdad

            The tower fell when the houses still belonged to the Coast Guard and the property was vacant. They are no longer vacant and there are legitimate concerns being expressed on the risk of it happening again as their homes are dangerously close to the planned location. Also, there are other considerations surrounding the future use of the site. I’ve been reviewing the lease agreement and have serious concerns about how the land will be used. There are provisions in the agreement for expanding beyond the current tower site, allowing subtenants and giving them the same privileges as AT&T…There is also a provision for review of the title. I’m sure Milford would love to have an AT&T owned property up on the hill. This is bigger than just putting up a cell tower. It will be a HUGE mistake if the city approves this.

      • peanut_gallery_ninja

        They are all EM radiation. All of it that you quoted. Perpendicular and spherical? What are you talking about? The risk of this kind of EM radiation is well characterized and negligible, especially compared to other environmental sources we are exposed to regularly. Can we stop talking about this now?

        • ctdad

          Honestly, that is not the argument that will prevent AT&T from putting up a tower and pretty confident it will be tabled by the Board of Alderman. HOWEVER, if AT&T chooses to go to a private owner, the city will have no control and perhaps it may be you who will be fighting it from being constructed in your backyard. Just Saying.

          • peanut_gallery_ninja

            I am not trying to argue to prevent the tower from being built upon the proposed location. . I think it is an appropriate use of the site. AT&T will likely go to a private owner if this location does not succeed. Since there are no clear health concerns (please refer to our previous postings regarding WHO documents, etc) , maybe I’ll let them build it in my yard and pay my mortgage. Again, they haven’t asked.

          • ctdad

            Let me be clear, there are impacts, non health related, to area residents that will have direct affect to them, perhaps not you. If you attended the meeting held last evening you would understand what they are but obviously did feel the need. It is irresponsible and frankly selfish to feel that it is okay to put up any structure that would adversely impact another residents. I’m not sure where you live, if in Milford at all but at the very least feel fortunate I do not have you as a neighbor.

          • peanut_gallery_ninja

            Please see my posting below. I’m glad that we can agree that the concerns are not health related. And don’t imply I’m selfish or irresponsible . We all live in a suburban community and can’t control what happens next door. Maybe this is the battle you wish to fight but I don’t. I’ve called my aldermen and let them know how I feel. We can always vote them out if either of us feels they don’t reflect our views.

  • ctdad

    What Milford residents must to be very aware of is that AT&T has their eye on Milford as a location for a new cell tower. They made that fact clear last evening and said in so many words that if they are unable to erect a tower on Eel’s Hill, they will find another site, most likely on private property. That would mean the City of Milford would have no control in the manner in which they utilize it. AT&T stated having a tower in Milford would improve cell service to their subscriber base, so there is a business driver for its construction. Residents need to take this very seriously and if they have the mindset “Not in my Backyard, Not my problem”, you may unfortunately be notified when it makes its way there.

  • ctdad

    There is a misstatement in this article. Berchem only notified residents within “200 ft” as required in the statute. Also, the lease payment will only be $1,500 per month and not $20,000. If there are questions about my statement, the City Attorney can qualify it.

  • peanut_gallery_ninja

    Milford aldermen, please just approve this tower. There is no logical reason not to.

    • ctdad

      Actually there is. There are impacts to residents, maybe not you. The tower up there now which is about 3 years old was constructed to support the town’s police, fire, public, and utilities. The engineer who built it was at the meeting and indicated just that. AT&T’s argument is simple, they want to build a tower in Milford to improve their cell coverage. What’s interesting, and not sure where you live, but in the area they are proposing is in need for improved coverage, I and many people who have AT&T have never had a problem. Now if YOU have a problem in YOUR area, you should probably contact them to install a tower nearer to your home so you can improve your service.

      • peanut_gallery_ninja

        I live near by, off of Baxter. Make your property value arguments, just don’t throw pseudo science into the mix. That is the only reason I’m posting.

        • ctdad

          I’m not making any argument specific to property values or health. My argument surrounds safety and direct impact to residents. The site is not structurally sound. There is high wind exposure to Long Island Sound. There was an antenna that fell a few years back during Hurricane Irene on that site. The setback from the neighboring homes is dangerously close and residents fear what will happen if it should fall again. Also, these are starter homes and it is a fact that FHA can potentially turn down a loan if near a tower site with this kind of history. We both live in the same district so I would hope you can understand what the real issues are and not presume it is only based on concerns around property value and health. However, although I’m not making a RF health argument,, you need to respect the concerns of those who live in very close proximity. Remember these are young parents with young children and we now live in a world saturated in cell communications. No one can truthfully say nothing will happen by continued exposure, only time will reveal whether it is valid or not. Hopefully I’m wrong.

          • peanut_gallery_ninja

            Are there other issues besides property value and health here? I respect thoughts that are well considered and factual. But just between you, me, and the interwebs… you did previously argue that this was a cellphone tower health issue. Now the issue is that the tower could fall down. Just saying.

          • ctdad

            Yes…As I stated above…there are many other issues…First, there was a tower up there that fell a few years back, when the Coast Guard owned them. The homes are no longer vacant and the setback is dangerously close to their homes. Second, the hill has high wind exposure to LI Sound and there is concern being raised of what will happen to their homes if it happens again. Third, these are starter homes. New home buyers could potentially be denied FHA loans because of this history of a falling towers. Also, I’ve been reviewing the lease agreement. There are disturbing provisions that allow AT&T to expand onto areas of the property beyond the location where the tower will be installed. That provision is also allowable to any subtenant that may lease from AT&T. There is also a provision allowing AT&T to review the title of the property. I’m sure everyone would love to have AT&T owning a huge communications facility at the top of the hill. This is bigger than people think. This has the potential of being something very bad for residents.

      • ctdad

        .

  • ctdad

    If the City of Milford allows AT&T to build a commercial cell tower, they will have no choice under the law to allow other carriers to build as well. This proposal, if approved, will open a big can of worms and turn Eel’s Hill into a Cell Tower farm.

    • TLKensington

      CP, they would just lease space out on the existing tower. Their wouldn’t be two cell towers up there.

      • ctdad

        @tlk…that’s where you are wrong..it is not uncommon for sites to have multiple towers…for instance, within the lease in question, there are provisions that would provide a lessee to petition to expand onto other area of Eel’s Hills as well as have the door open to petitioning for other city properties and the town will be obligated by law to allow them to do it. That’s my point.

  • Joseph

    Regarding cell tower health risks, this is from the American Cancer Society web site: Do cellular phone towers cause cancer?
    Some people have expressed concern that living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. At this time, there is very little evidence to support this idea. In theory, there are some important points that would argue against cellular phone towers being able to cause cancer.
    See www.cancer.org

    • ctdad

      The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits state and local governments from regulating the placement of personal wireless facilities on the basis of the effects of radio frequency
      emissions if the facility in question complies with the Federal Communication Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.

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