I wanted to take a moment to thank Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church for their recent decision to listen to the concerns of the neighborhood and suspend their cell tower negotiations with AT&T. This suspension will hopefully become permanent, but it is a very good first step. Thank you to the Church leadership and its members. This step starts the path to rebuilding the bonds of the community.
I also want to give special thanks to the neighborhood leaders who helped organize the awareness raising efforts. Cell tower installations don’t happen often. There was a lot of work done by many people to research and understand the process along with the decision making criteria. There was a lot of work done to help the Church and the neighborhood communicate.
To provide some background, despite the recent changes in State Statutes, the final say on cell tower locations rests with the State’s Siting Council. The Town has the ability to provide feedback and object to the location as well as provide alternative site locations, but the Siting Council is the final decision maker. The Town objected to the last cell tower installation on Wood House Road, but the Council gave its approval anyway. If this application had proceeded, I would have continued to voice my very strong objections to the Siting Council.
This issue started with a miscommunication and misunderstanding. The Town was never aware that AT&T approached the Church nor that any discussions had started. It wasn’t until the neighborhood concerns were voiced on social media that this information became public. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, perhaps the Church could have raised the question as to whether the Town would support a tower installation within 250 feet of a school given State Law. I clearly stated my opposition to this tower location to church leaders, the public and the press when this became public.
In addition, I held a meeting for church leaders and neighborhood representatives in my office. The purpose of this meeting was to bring people together for a better understanding and to share concerns. I believe this discussion helped the Church appreciate the depth of the concern in our community and led to the recent suspension of negotiations.
When I followed up with AT&T to let them know my concerns, they informed me that they had not yet selected a site. Fairfield Grace Methodist was under consideration along with Owen Fish Park, Fairfield Warde High School, a private cemetery and Lake Mohegan. Their goal is to fill in a gap in coverage for their network. Their engineers are evaluating alternative sites. There are 30 cell tower locations in Fairfield which are often located in church steeples, flag poles or on building roof tops. Three of these locations are owned by the Town.
As the Church has said, it would help to have more clarity in our State Statutes. I know our State Delegation has worked on recent changes to this legislation. We will need their continued efforts to help Fairfield and all communities in the future.
Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church has chosen to be a good neighbor and a good citizen. They deserve our thanks. We should all come together to help maintain the quality of life in our neighborhoods. We all need to continue work together for the best interests of Fairfield.
Thank you, Mike Tetreau – First Selectman