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Minutes of Zoning Board of Appeals, 09/16/2014

AGENDA: Zoning Board of Appeals

RECEIVED 09/18/2014 1:58pm
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Minutes

Present:

Henry Polio, Secretary
Bruce Given
Colleen Litof
Scott Smith
Noel Cooke, Alternate
Heather Whaley, Alternate

Absent:
Beth Williams, Chairman

The meeting was called to order at 7:29 p.m.

Henry Polio acted as Chairman for Beth Williams.

APPROVAL OF ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS MINUTES:

Upon the Motion of Mr. Smith and second of Ms. Whaley, the July 15, 2014 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes were approved (6-0) by the Board.

REGULAR APPLICATIONS:

Application: 14-09-01 – 96 Hill Road – Owner: ~Town of Redding (Map 22 & Lot 94) Applicant: Town of Redding Police Department –  Requesting a variance from Section 3.12 (Height Exceptions) ~of the Redding Zoning Regulations requiring a variance for current tower standing approx. 118 feet tall – new tower would stand approx. 128 feet tall (antenna height included). ~

Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs presented the Application to the Board.  Chief Fuchs indicated that the current communications tower needs to be replaced as it has exceeded its useful life.  A letter accompanied the application for variance from Centek Engineering which indicated that the current tower is structurally inadequate to support the existing antenna loading.  Due to the increased height of the tree line an increase in the tower and antenna height to 138 feet will allow for continued emergency communication between police, fire, and highway radios.   Chief Fuchs explained that the primary goal is for the emergency services responders (police, fire, EMS, paramedic) to be able to function entirely on their own in the event of an emergency.  The fire departments are operating on a low band frequency which requires height for proper signal.  With the added height, microwave dishes could be installed thereby enhancing the communication with the added benefit of being fully functional in the event that land lines / T1 lines are down.  A cost savings would also be realized as the AT&T land lines could then be eliminated.

Chief Fuchs provided photos to the Board members that showed the proposed pole tower along with visuals of similar towers from neighboring towns.  He indicated that the profile of the pole tower is minimalistic as compared to the current lattice style tower.  The location of the proposed tower is in the rear yard on the property of the Police Department where there is additional trees for screening.  By installing this pole tower in the rear yard it allows for installation of the new tower without interruption of communication service.  Communications would continue using the existing tower and then switched upon completion of the new tower.  Replacement of the current tower in its existing footprint would not be cost effective as a secondary tower would need to be erected to support ongoing communication while the existing tower is dismantled and the new tower is installed.

Mr. Smith inquired as to whether there was any public safety concern with police communications at this time with the tower and antenna height of 118 feet.  Chief Fuchs raised concern of the signals degrading from the tree line growing.  The Fire Department uses low band signals and pagers which require better line of sight signaling and a microwave hop would provide system reliability for the Fire and Highway Departments.

Eric Fine, engineer for Northeast Communications Inc., was present to provide detailed explanation of the installation plans.  Mr. Fine indicated that the microwave dish height would need to be at 120 feet to reach Redding Ridge.  The proposed tower structure itself is 120 feet with appurtenances requiring an additional 18-20 feet.  There is currently a proposal for a 150 foot tower pending at Redding Ridge which will give greater flexibility for the necessary height of the microwave dishes at the Police Department tower.  The proposed police tower is designed to give the Police Department the most robust system from one site for municipal use only.  Mr. Fine indicated that the proposed tower could be installed even deeper within the rear yard of the Police Department lot by approximately 20 feet.  He reviewed the survey with the Board members regarding the proposed location.

Mr. Polio remarked that the tower and antenna height requested in the application was for 128 feet while the drawings now submitted are indicating 140 feet.  Mr. Fine indicated that he was unaware of the Redding Zoning Regulations as to whether or not the appurtenances should be included in the tower height.

Mr. Fine provided a profile graph to the Board members showing line of sight testing from the Police Department to Redding Ridge Fire Department.  It provided a time line with estimated tree growth over 10 years.

Mr. Smith noted for the record a discrepancy in the wording of Zoning regulation 3.12 (a) in various versions of the regulations.  The Regulations at the Town Clerks office indicated “For steeples, spires, belfries and domes of public or institutional buildings, flagpoles, sign towers….”; on the Town of Redding website it indicated “…. siren towers” and on the ct.gov website it indicated “…sien towers”.  The assumption given would be it refers to siren towers.  Chief Fuchs confirmed there is no siren on the tower.

PUBLIC COMMENT:

Ed Staunton, 15 Cross Highway:  Mr. Staunton inquired as to what the current inadequacies are with the existing tower and antenna and what negative implications have occurred.  As an adjacent property owner to the Police Department, he raised concerns over the increased height above the requested variance in the application as well as the implications of the type of equipment installed.  Mr. Staunton is concerned that this installation is based upon an unknown projection 10 or 20 years into the future.  Response:  Chief Fuchs indicated that the height of the equipment that supports the low band signal needs to be higher due to the tree line heights.  Per Mr. Fine, increased height of the microwave equipment at 118 feet would provide better radio signal coverage.  Chief Fuchs indicated that with such a substantial purchase of infrastructure to the Town it is necessary to forecast the future communication needs.

Mr. Polio asked if the microwave dishes would be able to be added to the existing tower.  Mr. Fine indicated that would not be possible.

Vanessa Alward, 159 Cross Highway:  Ms. Alward voiced concerns regarding the continual changing technology.  She inquired if the Fire Department’s technology could be upgraded to come into line with current technology instead of installing towers that are not aesthetically pleasing.   Response:  Chief Fuchs stated that the federal government wants to bring all public safety communications into a 700 bandwidth, but the cost is very expensive, in the millions.  Mr. Fine indicated that the Town’s focus is looking toward the future needs and having a robust system that can stand on its own without the need of an outside vendor.

Lars Uler, 155 Portland Avenue:  Ms. Uler asked Chief Fuchs if there had been any loss of life, major catastrophe or incidents due to the communication capabilities of the existing tower.  She also raised a concern regarding the proposed 150 foot tower at Redding Ridge and if it should not be passed then ultimately what the need is to upgrade the Police Department tower.  While it is understood that the tower needs to be replaced, Ms. Uler voiced concern over the height of the proposed Police Department tower and the safety of the microwave equipment.  Response: Chief Fuchs indicated that he did not have any research regarding any response issue that has caused a loss of life. With regards to the pending Redding Ridge tower, Mr. Fine indicated that if their tower is not approved the signal would remain the same as it is now and the viability of point to point service is diminished.  Chief Fuchs indicated that with the exception of the microwave dishes there will be no change in the transmitters being used currently, the load will remain the same.

Jeff Andrews, 9 Cross Highway:  Mr. Andrews concerned that the proposed tower is based on the future needs of the Town and of the 150 foot Redding Ridge tower which is pending.  He is also concerned about the height.  He presented a field card which lists the tower as 75 feet and would like confirmation of the actual height.  As a contractor and based on his familiarity with the Zoning Board of Appeals process, Mr. Andrews indicated that cost is not a hardship.  He also is concerned with the aesthetics of the location of the proposed tower in consideration of his property which is located behind the Police Department.  Mr. Andrews inquired as to using the Highway tower to hold the additional load needed.   Response:  Chief Fuchs stated that he is quite confident in the current height of the tower.  Mr. Fine confirmed the current height is 118 feet in that there are five sections, each 20 feet in height, equaling 100 feet with 18 feet of antenna at the top.  As well, during the last servicing of the tower, the height was confirmed with measuring tape.

Ms. Whaley inquired about having the low band antenna installed at the Highway Department tower.  Mr. Fine indicated that the cell tower at the Highway Department is a ‘stealth tower’ shrouded in fiberglass and no attachments can be made.  The cell tower technology is different from the public safety radio technology.  Chief Fuchs indicated that if it was possible to use the Highway Department tower it would require a phone line between the Police Department and Highway Department.

Michael McKee, 8 Farview Farm Road:  Mr. Mckee inquired as to the height of the Highway tower in the historic Redding Center.  While Mr. McKee does not dispute the need for a new tower, which has been approved by Town vote, he does have concern that the height now requested is 138 feet which differs from the 128 feet presented to the Public.  He inquired as to which trees are affecting the communication issues; the trees in Redding Center or elsewhere.   Mr. McKee suggested that balloons be put up on the current tower so that the new height can be better visualized prior to making a decision.  Response:  Chief Fuchs stated the Highway tower is 180 feet with a larger footprint and profile.  He also indicated that the proposed tower height was always 120 feet with the antenna as the variable.   Mr. Fine indicated the trees that are affecting the communication issues are both near field and far field as currently the antennas for the fire departments are lower on the existing tower.

Eliot Cabot, 169 Gallows Hill Road:  Mr. Cabot inquired if the proposed monopole tower could be extended.  He also raised a concern about the distance of the proposed tower location from the property line for setback limitations. Mr. Cabot does not feel that a hardship has been shown and questions whether installation at the current height would not give better communications capability.  Response:  Mr. Fine indicated that it is an option to have a monopole that could be extended for additional height as needed.  He also commented that if the new proposed monopole tower was installed at 118 feet there would some improvement for the Fire Department and Highway Department but little improvement for the Police Department.

Amy Cabot, 169 Gallows Hill Road:  Ms. Cabot inquired to the distance of the proposed location of the tower to the rear yard property line and how the proposed tower can be moved and be a pre-existing condition in a new footprint.  She also questioned how big the microwave dishes are and where would they be placed on the tower.  Response:  Mr. Fine indicated the proposed tower location is approximately 15-17 feet from the rear property line.  Mr. Given indicated that the new proposed location falls under the pre-existing condition.  Mr. Fine stated the two microwaves dishes are 24 inches in diameter and would be installed at 115 feet.

Ms. Uler inquired as to the reason for moving the proposed tower to a new location.  Response:  Mr. Fine commented that to cost-effectively install the new tower the existing tower would continue to be functional until such time that the new tower is installed.  The cabling for the new tower would require new conduits to the Police Department building.

Mr. Polio inquired if microwave technology would be able to be provided should the maximum height of the tower and antenna not exceed 118 feet.  Mr. Fine indicated that additional height would be required.

Mr. Polio asked Chief Fuchs his opinion of hardship in this matter.  Chief Fuchs stated that without the additional requested height the radio system for the Police Department would be degraded, even further degraded for the Fire Department, and non-existent for the Highway Department.  The purpose of the requested height is not only for future needs but also for point to point communications so emergency operations are not dependent on AT&T.

Upon motion of Mr. Smith and second of Ms. Litof, the Board entered Deliberative Session at 9:07 p.m.

DELIBERATIVE SESSION:

The Board members discussed the comments and concerns raised by Public comment.  The Board members voiced their own concerns regarding the difference in height of the proposed tower and antenna as noted on the application vs. the height requested in the presentation and the transparency of such to the Public, along with setback limitations and the pending Redding Ridge tower and the impact it will have on the proposed tower at the Police Department.

Application: 14-09-01 – 96 Hill Road – Owner: ~Town of Redding (Map 22 & Lot 94) Applicant: Town of Redding Police Department – Upon motion of Ms. Litof and second of Mr. Smith, the Board voted 6-0 to deny the application for variance without prejudice and request the Applicant to re-file with corrected height measurement and request site line variance to account for the new location of the proposed tower

Upon motion of Mr. Cooke and second of Mr. Given, the Board voted to exit deliberative session at 9:14 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT

The Board voted unanimously to adjourn at 9:15 p.m.

These minutes have not been approved by the ZBA.

Submitted by klg 9/18/14