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Greenwich delegation proposes bill to keep cell towers away from schools

Frank MacEacher, News-Times
Published 12:09 am, Monday, February 15, 2010
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In a move to prevent cell towers from being erected close to schools, Greenwich's state legislators are proposing a bill that would prevent the towers from being built within 750 feet of a school or a day care.

Just don't expect to see the legislation enacted soon, said Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151st District.

"It's not an easy thing; it can be pretty lengthy," he said of the process.

Camillo is joined by fellow Reps. Livvy Floren, R-149th District, and Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, as well as Republican Sen. L. Scott Frantz.

Last year, a proposal by T-Mobile to erect a cell tower in the form of an 80-foot flagpole on the property of Fred Durante at 328 Palmer Hill Road drew the ire of neighbors and parents of children who attend the nearby North Mianus School.

They complained of adverse health effects from the cell phone transmissions from the towers. Faced with that uproar, T-Mobile worked with the town to look at other sites.

One site that has been identified is 129 Bible St., in the Montgomery Pinetum. It has also aroused opposition by residents who do not want to see development there.

Robert May, chairman of District 12/Havemeyer in the Representative Town Meeting, welcomed the legislators' moves.

"I think the whole idea is to get cell towers away from schools," said May. "The further the better."

Camillo said the legislators wanted to get a discussion started in Hartford.

"You do it one step at a time, I'm trying to get it raised for a public hearing," he said.

The legislators considered choosing other distances such as 1,500 feet, but Camillo said they decided 750 feet was the best option.

"The more you go in distance, the more resistance you are going to encounter," he said. "Fifteen hundred feet would be really pushing it and we wanted to get something reasonable."

He said the distance would be between a property line of a school or day care and a proposed cell tower.

Currently, there is little local control over the location of cell towers.

The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits health reasons from being used as a reason for denying cell towers to be constructed.

In Connecticut, the Connecticut Siting Council approves cell towers.

S. Derek Phelps, the council's executive director, declined to comment on the issue other than to say state lawmakers are free to propose legislation.

Staff Writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at frank.maceachern@scni.com or 203-625-4434.