A proposed AT&T cellphone tower continues to spark criticism in New Canaan as some residents worry about health risks and negative housing prices.
During its monthly meeting Dec. 2, the Utilities Commission discussed -- once again -- a plan to build a new cell tower at the transfer station in New Canaan. About 25 residents spoke against the project for at least three different reasons.
Some were concerned with potential negative house prices and aesthetic effects; some were worried about potential negative health effects; and others said the feeling of the neighborhood around the transfer station had been "unfairly dumped upon," Commission Secretary Derek Bennett said.
AT&T proposed earlier this year to build a 150-foot cellphone tower at 394 Main St., where the transfer station is located. Town officials support the project, saying the tower would improve the cell signal in New Canaan.
Scientific studies generally agree that radio frequency radiation emitted from cellphone towers is "far too low to cause health risks as long as people are kept away from the antenna itself," according to a report by the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Therefore, it is the antenna that people need to keep away from, not the tower. Studies show that radio frequency radiation levels in areas near a cell tower are often below safety standards. Besides, new cellphone towers must be approved by the Connecticut Siting Council before they are built and they must meet safety standards set by the Federal Communications Commission.
Some of the attendees mentioned the real problem with cellular coverage in New Canaan was in the northern parts of the town. They said a tower should be built there first.
"Nearly all attendees expressed exasperation that a tower would be constructed in an area they perceive to already have good service," Bennett said at the meeting.
Bennett also presented changes to the commission's website and suggested people visit the links he posted on studies about the effect of cell towers on house prices and health problems. He mentioned two studies -- one from Germany and one from New Zealand -- that indicate approximately 1 to 5 percent and 2 to 10 percent negative price effect, respectively.
A letter from the Utilities Commission sent to the Grace Farms Foundation in March states that New Canaan's wireless reliability is very low, mostly because of the town's topography.
"New Canaan has many ridges and valleys, resulting in about 25 percent reliability for our town," the letter states.
Cell tower antennas can only broadcast to a distance of about 2 miles, depending on height and local terrain, according to the letter.
At the meeting, Commission Chairman Dan Welch asked the group to make the site selection and approval process as transparent as possible to increase public involvement.
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