Plans for new structure to boost Wilton cell service move forward

WILTON — Plans for a new structure to increase cell service in town have been approved to move forward by members of the Board of Selectmen on June 22.

“We receive lots of complaints about cell phone signals,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice at the Tuesday night meeting, adding that grievances from residents have increased over the years as more people have been forced to depend on cellphones and the town population has increased.

The tower-like structure known as a monopole, which is being proposed to be erected behind the bus stable on School Road near both Cider Mill Elementary School and Middlebrook Middle School, would be one of 16 cell towers serving town residents. Eleven of those are in the town of Wilton, with added support for certain areas of town coming from two towers in New Canaan, and one tower each in Norwalk, Weston and Westport.

Vanderslice said the new monopole would resemble that of the monopole currently in Georgetown, near Caraluzzi’s Market. It will not resemble that of a traditional cell tower, like that of Eversource’s tower on Danbury Road near Diamond Deli, with various “branches” extended from the structure.

“(In) this case, we are talking about a monopole, not a tower,” Vanderslice said to quell concerns over the proposal’s appearance. She will bring forth a proposal in the near future, hoping to erect the monopole with the maximum height allowed for the town.

She added it would be well hidden due to the topography and density of trees in the area.

“The site is attractive to us for three reasons,” she said, firstly because the proposed site on School Road serves an area “we know has issues;” secondly, many of Wilton’s most high-traveled roads are in the vicinity of the monopole’s proposed location; and lastly the area has a high density of trees that will hide the monopole well.

Vanderslice went as far to call the proposal a “stealth monopole,” as it would be dressed to look as much like a tree as possible from the foundation up.

The leasee, which would be the carrier to contract the project, would have to file with the CT Siting Council, where all cell tower projects must be approved before construction.

Other selectmen agreed that the need is apparent in town.

“There is no question we have a need here in Wilton,” Selectwoman Deborah McFadden said.

Selectman Ross Tartell cited several reasons added cell service capabilities would benefit Wilton.

“The necessity and need for cell service is really growing,” he said, adding that when potential homebuyers come to town to look at open houses, the allure of buying a house is dampened when stable cell service becomes a legitimate question. “... Also for safety purposes, we need cell service to call for help when necessary.”

Selectman Joshua Cole focused on future residents, saying that the “younger generation” moving into town “don’t have landlines.” Due to this, cell service everywhere in town is paramount, especially during storms and outages, he said.

“Since I’ve been in office, this has been an issue,” Vanderslice said. “We are hoping to come up with a solution that helps both carriers and the town.”