Zoning board considers deleting local cell tower regulations

The Planning & Zoning Board tabled a proposal at a recent meeting to delete regulations for communication buildings, stations and towers, pending a written opinion from the city attorney.

Board member John Grant said the subcommittee recommended deleting the regulation because cell phone towers are regulated by the Connecticut Siting Council, which overrides any local zoning regulations. He said this local regulation also applies to ham radio and CB radio antennas, but such facilities can be regulated as accessory structures in other parts of the zoning rules.

“Since we have no control of commercial towers, it was felt this regulation should be deleted,” said Grant.

Ed Vanchot of New Haven Avenue was the lone resident to comment on the issue. Vanchot spoke against the deletion, saying the regulation is needed to protect residents. He spoke in opposition to a proposed AT&T tower on Eels Hill Road, which was approved as an 8-24 referral by the P&Z, but rejected by the Board of Aldermen.

“This means one of these towers can go anywhere in town,” said Vanchot. “I see this as a back door way of bringing AT&T into town.”

In response, Grant said, “This board has no control over the location and approval of cell phone towers. This regulation cannot be enforced in any way.”

Board member Jeanne Cervin said she supported keeping the regulation as part of the zoning rules.

“If a municipality has a regulation in place, it does give some weight to what the siting council decides,” said Cervin.

The P&Z had a role in the AT&T tower because it was proposed for city-owned land. Under state regulations, the P&Z acts in an advisory role to the Board of Aldermen.

If the P&Z approves use of city land, the aldermen can approve a contract with a simple majority; if the P&Z opposes uses, then the aldermen need a two-thirds majority to approve a contract with an applicant.

At issue in the AT&T case was whether the city would allow use of its land by AT&T for a tower, which is a contractual question, not a zoning decision.