Proposed Eels Hill cell tower would replace existing tower with taller one

City officials have scheduled an information meeting for July 10 regarding a cell tower proposed for Eels Hill. The proposal has been the subject of some resident concern.

The cell tower proposal came up at the Board of Aldermen’s May meeting. But since some aldermen had questions about AT&T’s plan to build a new tower on Eels Hill to replace an existing tower, the aldermen tabled the matter to gather more information and public input.

The information meeting will take place Thursday, July 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers at Milford City Hall.

In May, the aldermen were asked to approve an AT&T request to erect a tower at Eels Hill Road, which lies off New Haven Avenue. The property was once a Nike missile base and more recently housed Milford’s Board of Education offices. The city would accept ownership of the tower from AT&T once construction is complete and the city would then lease space on the tower to AT&T.

Attorney Daniel Laub of Cuddy & Feder said an existing cell tower on the site is 100 feet tall and the company is proposing replacing it with a slightly taller structure. The new tower would be 130 feet tall but with a slimmer profile. Police antennas currently on the 100-foot tower would be moved to the new tower.

Laub said it is basically a “win-win for the city.”

Alderman Ray Vitali asked the benefits financially for the city. Alex Marsten from AT&T explained there is a monthly lease payment, and the lease lasts 25 years. He also said the city will be getting a new tower. Vitali also asked about possible camouflage for the tower, but Marsten said the company hadn’t considered that. In some cases towers are designed to look like tall trees, but Marsten said in this case, “A large tree would be in the middle of nowhere.”

Mayor Ben Blake said the city would be swapping one tower for a like tower, and that it wouldn’t be the tallest in the city. “It would be the second tallest,” Blake said.

Abutting property owners were notified this week about the information meeting. For some of them, it was the first they’d heard about the new cell tower.

“You will now be bombarded with radio frequency microwaves 24 hours a day, let alone having the privilege of viewing one of AT&T's beautiful cell towers out your kitchen window,” resident Walt Rollins wrote in a letter to his neighbors. “Just think how your property values will soar.”

Laub spoke of an exposure study during the May Board of Aldermen’s meeting, pointing out that the FCC regulates electromagnetic fields and what is acceptable to the general population. He said the new tower would generate electromagnetic fields considerably lower than the acceptable standard.

He said that the current tower emits 7.575% of the permitted emission level, and the new tower would add 9.75% to that, bringing the emissions to about 17% of the FCC permitted emission level.

More recently, however, Laub explained that those projections were estimates, and that updated information actually brings the new total emissions in at a much lower number. He said the new tower would emit 7.6% of the FCC permitted emission level, up just slightly from the current 7.575%

Alderman Bryan Anderson said he believes there is a need to upgrade the police communication system, which this would accomplish, but he said he had some concerns. Other aldermen did, too, and therefore the vote was tabled.