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Calling All Cars! Public Safety Communications Tower Gets Green Light

Montville Planning and Zoning Approves a Waiver Permitting the Erection of a Telecommunications Tower on the Site of the New Public Safety Building

On October 26, Montville Planning and Zoning Commission gave the final go-ahead to allow construction of a new Public Safety communications tower. The new tower will be located on the same site as the Public Safety Building, which is currently under construction on Route 32.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had been asked to waive a requirement that project managers present alternate sites as part of their proposal. Commission members agreed that placing the tower on the same site as the new Public Safety Building made good sense.

For some time now, Montville has needed a new communications tower. Not only is the existing tower at the current police building on Rte. 2A nearing the end of its 30-year lifespan, Montville Police Lt. Leonard Bunnell and Fire Marshal Ray Occhialini said there are also a number of “dead zones” in town.

“Currently on this whole Route 32 corridor from McDonalds to past the jail, there is no talk-back,” said Occhialini. In other words, emergency responders in that area can hear what’s being said but they can’t answer back on the radio.

“You know how helpless that makes you feel?” said Bunnell, who testified in support of the new communications tower at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing last night. “The tower is crucial to our ability to communicate.”

No one on the Planning and Zoning Commission disputed the need for a new tower nor did they have a problem with the proposal to locate it on the same site as the new Public Safety Building. Members agreed it was the most logical choice, for all the reasons Town Attorney Ronald Ochsner pointed out at the October 25 meeting.

Locating the 145-foot high tower and the 120-square-foot tower building on the site adjacent to the new Public Safety Building would be better for security, because police would be right there to keep an eye on it. The fact that the tower would be just 155 feet away from the Public Safety Building also keeps the required length of cable fairly short.

The location poses no problems for traffic and impact studies found it will have no negative affect on property values in the area. Wetlands are not an issue at this site and nor is drainage. The only issue, raised by commission member Robert Baron, was whether the Town of Montville was giving itself preferential treatment in its request for a waiver of Planning and Zoning requirements that an alternate site be investigated and presented as an option for consideration.

Town Attorney Ronald Ochsner assured the commission that the request was above-board and that, although he was asking for a waiver regarding an alternate site, other sites had indeed been investigated during the planning process. “We felt this was the preferred site,” Ochsner said.

After some debate, the Commission concurred and voted in favor of waiving the requirement to search for other sites within a quarter-mile radius. As the telecommunications tower is not being built for commercial use but will be used exclusively by police, emergency services, civil defense, and public works, the requirement to have a licensed telecommunications systems engineer present a report showing why the tower was necessary was also waived.

With this final approval in place, Marcia Vlaun, town planner and project manager for the new Public Safety Building, anticipates that new tower construction will begin when the Public Safety Building is about three-quarters finished.

“It’s going to be a big improvement for police, fire, public works and public safety,” Occhialini said.

Tiiu October 26, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Can we be certain that this will not be an eyesore for all the homes in the area?
Jayne Keedle October 27, 2011 at 01:31 AM
Eyesore, I suppose, is a matter of opinion but the tower is considerably lower than the existing towers in the area and the impact study found that it should have no impact on property values.
Tiiu October 27, 2011 at 02:59 AM
I was unaware of any other existing towers in the area. Till now, the land in question has been wooded waterfront on the Thames estuary. Obviously, a 10,000 square foot building, parking lot, and 145-foot high tower changes the entire character of the property. I am curious as to who did the aforementioned impact studies which determined that property values would not be affected. Also, would a communications tower affect the radio and cellphone reception of the homes in the area in any way?
Sam Rogers October 27, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Jayne, an applicant's impact studies will inevitably contend that there is no adverse impact -surely you weren't born yesterday? In the absence of contrary evidence, of course the PZC approved it. Tiiu, you may well believe otherwise and even be able to prove it, but you would have had to show up at the hearing. You didn't see the tiny legal notice buried in the back of the newspaper?
Jayne Keedle October 27, 2011 at 07:07 AM
No, not yesterday. However, I'm inclined to give the town of Montville the benefit of the doubt here, and believe that the town planner wouldn't give the go ahead for something that would have an adverse affect on residents. As I see it (albeit from my limited view as a guest editor here), I'd be much more concerned about the fact that emergency services can't communicate with each other in some areas of town than I would be about whether a communications tower popped up over the trees. Let's face it, between power lines and cell phone towers, there are eyesores everywhere but we live with them because we want the services they provide. That's my two-cents anyhow. Take it for what it's worth.
Tiiu October 27, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Sam, I do usually try to peruse those little legal notices in the paper, but (sigh), I missed this particular one, unfortunately for me, so I guess I can't complain any more. I just feel that very little attention is being paid to our town's few, beautiful open spaces. It's all about attracting business and putting up parking lots and concrete buildings. This may increase the tax base , which is debatable, but the quality of life for our townspeople goes down. And that's my two-cents worth. Jayne, do you live in Montville? If so, don't you long for ways to make this town look more beautiful?

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