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The proposed Branford Site consists of a 120-foot monopole and associated equipment compound located in the northeast corner of a 0
DOCKET NO. 427 – North Atlantic Towers, LLC and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, maintenance and operation of a telecommunications facility located at one of two sites: 171 Short Beach Road, Branford, or 82 Short Beach Road, East Haven, Connecticut.
December 13, 2012
On April 24, 2012, North Atlantic Towers, LLC and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC applied to the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate) for the construction, maintenance and operation of a wireless telecommunications facility located at either 171 Short Beach Road in Branford (Branford Site) or 82 Short Beach Road in East Haven (East Haven Site), Connecticut. The proposed facility would provide wireless service to the Route 142 area in the southeast section of East Haven and the southwest section of Branford, including the Short Beach area.
The proposed Branford Site consists of a 120-foot monopole and associated equipment compound located in the northeast corner of a 0.87-acre parcel, developed with a 6,500 square foot commercial building and associated parking areas for a heating and air conditioning business. Access to the site would be from an existing parking lot. Although the parcel is mostly open, several trees would need to be removed for a 50-foot by 50-foot compound. No wetland resources were identified on the parcel or immediately adjacent to the proposed construction area. Land use in the area includes woodlands to the north and west, a commercial property to the northeast, and residential development to the east and south.
The proposed East Haven Site consists of a 103-foot monopole and associated equipment compound located on a 0.91-acre parcel, developed with a fire station. A 103-foot tower is proposed because any structure that exceeds this height would be required to have aviation warning lights due to the proximity of Tweed Airport in New Haven. The State Historic Preservation Office opined that a tower with aviation hazard lighting would have an adverse environmental effect on a nearby historic district.
The proposed East Haven Site is located along the southern property, along the top of a steep slope. The 2,500 square-foot compound would be generally rectangular in shape, placed in a gravel area behind the fire station. Residential development is located north, east and west of the site. Farm River State Park is located to the south. The East Haven site would require no clearing or the disturbance of any wetlands. A wetland exists at the base of the steep slope, on abutting property but erosion control measures would prevent impacts to this resource. Although concerns were raised about the unconsolidated fill in area where the tower would be constructed, the Council finds the Applicant could engineer the tower to ensure the slope remains stable and the tower foundation secure.
The Council is satisfied that the Applicant has conducted a thorough search of alternative properties that could host a facility, including properties suggested by the Town of Branford and by the Council. The proposed coverage area is located mostly in a residential area with small lot sizes. The few large parcels within the search area are protected by land trusts, or consist of state park lands. Additionally, the commercial and municipal properties in the search area were not available for lease.
The Applicant examined Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and a two tower configuration. The Council concurs with the Applicants position that a DAS is not feasible because it would require many more poles and antennas than a macro site to achieve comparable coverage, and it would not provide sufficient flexibility for developing a robust wireless network as a whole. A two-tower configuration double construction costs, increase visual impacts, and be inconsistent with the Council’s tower-sharing policy by reducing tower heights and associated coverage footprints for future co-locators.
Both AT&T and Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless (Cellco) have unreliable coverage in the Short Beach area of Branford and East Haven. Neither proposed facility, however, can meet 100 percent of each carrier’s coverage objectives, given the terrain and extent of coverage gaps in the area. AT&T prefers the Branford Site, as it would provide mostly in-building coverage from Branford Harbor west to the Farm River, including residential areas around Short Beach, Lanphiers Cove, and Stannard Avenue. The Branford Site would marginally improve coverage to the Cosey Beach area of East Haven, but only at the in-vehicle service level. Some unreliable AT&T service would remain, especially around Cosey Beach Road and Dewey Avenue. For Cellco, the Branford Site would satisfy coverage objectives in Branford but would leave a portion of the Cosey Beach area with unreliable service.
The East Haven site provides in-building coverage for AT&T to the Short Beach area of Branford and the Wheaton Road area of East Haven. Additionally, most of the Cosey Beach area would have coverage in-vehicle coverage but not in-building, and a small area of unreliable coverage would remain on Cosey Beach Avenue. Coverage would be rated as in-vehicle for a mile of Route 142, including adjacent residential areas, east of Short Beach. Additionally, AT&T would have unreliable service to the Lanphiers Cove, Briarwood Lane, and Stannard Road areas. Cellco would have greater coverage from the East Haven site with Cosey Beach and most of the Route 142 corridor fully covered, except for some unreliable service in the Stannard Road, Alps Road and Briarwood Lane areas.
Near-range visibility of both sites is similar, as they are both visible from coastal waters and from the surrounding residential areas. Several residences in close proximity to both towers would have substantial views of the towers, and, in a few cases, a view of the entire facility. Long-range visibility would occur from Long Island Sound but, given the distances involved and the developed nature of the shoreline, the Council finds such visibility would not have an adverse effect on this resource.
Both proposed sites are within the migratory bird Atlantic Flyway. While both proposed sites are also close to the New Haven Harbor “waterfowl focus area”, the risk of migratory bird collisions is low because both proposed towers comply with United States Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines that recommend towers be less than 199 feet, avoid use of lighting, and avoid guy wires for tower supports.
After examining the environmental impacts and the range of coverage at each location, the Council finds the Branford site preferable. It is located on a commercial property and abuts another commercial property to the north. A wooded land trust parcel buffers the site to the northwest. In general, the Council finds the land uses in the area of the Branford site are more compatible with cell tower development than the Farm River watershed lands where the East Haven site is located. The Council notes there has been considerable effort by federal, State and local entities to protect natural and cultural resources within a half-mile of the East Haven site, including the establishment of two historic districts, the creation of Farm River State Park, the protection of Beacon Hill, and the preservation of extensive tidal marshes.
The Branford site would provide coverage for AT&T to the Branford coastline, as well as in-vehicle coverage to most of the Cosey Beach area of East Haven. While Cellco would not obtain complete coverage of the Cosey Beach area, it would meet its coverage objectives along the Route 142 corridor in Branford and along the Farm River area of East Haven.
A tower at the Branford site offers more flexibility in terms of tower-sharing than a tower at the East Haven Site as the lowest available co-location spot would be at 100 feet rather than 80 feet as would be the case at the East Haven Site. The latter, being close to Tweed Airport, would effectively be capped at 103 feet, since, if it were to be extended, it would be required by the FAA to have aviation hazard marking and lighting, which the Council finds would have a detrimental effect on the surrounding neighborhood. A tower at the Branford site could be extended in the future without such detriment, facilitating tower share opportunities.
Acknowledging greater visual impacts from a tower at the Branford Site, which would be roughly 20 feet taller than the one in East Haven, the Council examined whether the tower could be built without platforms, giving it a slim profile. The Council finds, however, that such a flagpole type tower would not allow carriers the flexibility necessary either to maintain current networks or to support future network improvements. Nonetheless, to provide some shielding against open views from the east and southeast, the Council will order the Applicant to install solid wood fencing around the compound and to plant evergreen trees.
The proposed Branford Site is consistent with the provisions of the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act, as it will not have the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing, or destroying the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state. In consideration of all relevant surrounding circumstances and factors, there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed tower. To mitigate views of the facility, the Council will order the Applicant to install solid wood fencing around the compound and install evergreen trees to shield open views from the east and southeast.
According to methodology prescribed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology Bulletin No. 65E, Edition 97-01 (August 1997), the combined worst case radio frequency power density levels of AT&T’s and Cellco’s proposed antennas have been calculated to amount to 42% of the FCC’s Maximum Permissible Exposure, as measured at the base of the tower. This percentage is well below federal and state standards established for the frequencies used by wireless companies. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits any state or local agency from regulating telecommunications towers on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such towers and equipment comply with FCC’s regulations concerning such emissions. If federal or state standards change, the Council will require that the tower be brought into compliance with such standards. The Council will require that the power densities be recalculated in the event other carriers add antennas to the tower.
Based on the record in this proceeding, the Council finds that the effects associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of a telecommunications facility at the Branford Site, including effects on the natural environment; ecological integrity and balance; public health and safety; scenic, historic, and recreational values; forests and parks; air and water purity; and fish and wildlife are not disproportionate either alone or cumulatively with other effects when compared to need, are not in conflict with policies of the State concerning such effects, and are not sufficient reason to deny this application. Therefore, the Council will issue a Certificate for the construction, maintenance, and operation of a 120-foot monopole telecommunications facility at the Branford Site at 171 Short Beach Road in Branford, with the condition that the Applicant install a stockade compound fence and evergreen trees for landscaping to shield views of the facility from the southeast.
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