Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy signed in a new state law that gives local communities an increased opportunity for input when it comes to determining where cell towers should be located.
“The idea behind this bill is not to slow down the process for siting cell towers, but to allow for better input from the community so that we can meet the demand while at the same time take into consideration a number of possible concerns that host communities may have on a given project,” Governor Malloy said.
The law, Public Act 12-165, however, does increase the lead time for consulting with towns affected by the location of a tower from 60 to at 90 days before applying to the Connecticut Siting Council for approval of the tower application, allowing more organization of opposition.
Components of the bill have been opposed by PCIA and the New England Wireless Association, according to Christopher Fisher, chairman of the telecom practice of Cuddy Feder, but there was some improvement as it went through the process. The first version of the bill contained a prohibition of cell siting within 750 feet of schools and day care centers, while the final measure was softened. It keeps cell towers 250 feet from schools and child day care centers unless the location is acceptable to the chief elected official of the municipality or if the council finds that the facility will not adversely affect the aesthetics of a neighborhood. Additionally, the bill did not have an impact on rooftop antennas.
“The initial bill was extremely concerning,” Fisher told AGL Bulletin. “Through the process there were modifications that made it less of a pragmatic concern for siting purposes and less of a concern compared with an out prohibition.” In the end, Fisher believes that the distance between a cell tower and a school cannot be regulated.
The law also requires the tower developer to provide towns with more information concerning a cell tower is proposed in certain area and give towns will more opportunities to offer their own location preference. Additionally, residents will play an increased role in the councils’ hearing processes.
“This new law proves you can make progress and still honor and respect the things that communities value most. The law offers additional protections for residential neighborhoods, schools, child daycare centers and scenic treasures, and it allows telecom providers to meet the fast-growing demands for expanded services,” State Rep. Lonnie Reed (D-Branford), bill co-sponsor, said.
State Representative Pat Widlitz (D-Branford, Guilford), who also co-sponsored the bill, said, “This new law will not only greatly improve our ability to influence the siting of cell towers, but will also encourage the use of the least obtrusive technology. It’s an important step forward for the protection of our shoreline vistas.”