Beth Williams, Chairman
Henry Polio, Secretary
Noel Cooke, Alternate
Heather Whaley, Alternate
The meeting was called to order at 7:29 p.m.
The Chair designated alternate Noel Cooke to act in place of Coleen Litof. Alternate Heather Whaley will refrain from deliberation.
Ms. Williams noted that Application 14-11-01 for 28 Old Field Lane will not be heard due to request from Applicant’s attorney to postpone the matter until the December meeting
APPROVAL OF ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS MINUTES:
Upon the Motion of Mr. Smith and second of Mr. Given, the October 21, 2014 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes were approved (5-0) by the Board including the above-mentioned correction.
Application: 14-11-01- 28 Old Field Lane – Owner: Laura Fiorilla ~(Map #15 & Lot #14) – Agent: Attorney Peter C. Hunt: ~~Appeal of Decision issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer on September 18, 2014.
Appeal not heard; postponed until December 16, 2014 meeting.
Application: 14-11-02 – 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 not to exceed 120 foot tower height and 18 feet of antenna installed on the top thereof (total height not to exceed 138 feet.) and requesting setback ~in excess Section 3.12 and possibly Section 4.6 of the Redding Zoning Regulations to remain not less than 10’ feet from the property which abuts to the south and which abuts to the east.
Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs presented the Application to the Board. Also present were Georgetown Fire Chief Michael Heibeck, Redding Ridge Fire Chief Ron VanOostendorp, Redding Ridge Commissioner Ben Pardee and Redding Highway Superintendent Jeff Hanson.
Chief Fuchs indicated that as the Applicant he was representing all public safety concerns: Police Department, Fire Department, EMS, Public Works, and mutual aide responders.
He indicated that the technical aspects of the project had been discussed in great length at the prior September meeting but expressed that height equals distance in public safety communication and stressed the importance of having the ability of communicate in an emergency. Chief Fuchs explained that due to the Town’s sale of a portion of the Police Department’s parcel an extremely non-conforming lot was created in size and shape. To clarify any confusion Chief Fuchs stated that the proposed tower is a radio communications tower only and not a cell tower. He indicated that the proposed tower not only takes into consideration the current need but that of the future as foliage continues to grow.
Fire Chief VonOostendorp deferred to the Redding Ridge Commissioner Ben Pardee regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. Mr. Pardee indicated that the current antenna is at 90 feet and if the tower were to be approved they could request for frequency coordination and it would improve the reception.
Ms. Williams read a letter into the record from Scot Sanford, Assistant Chief, West Redding Fire Department, which indicated that he did not agree that the Fire Department antenna would need to be mounted on the side of the tower. The letter indicated that if there were a three-sided platform at the top of the tower all three antennas could be mounted at the highest point on the tower. Mr. Sanford questioned if a platform mount had been considered. Chief Fuchs responded that as the antennas are currently configured a platform mount is not an option and in the future there will be arms attached to the tower but there will not be a platform on the tower.
Mr. Smith asked Mr. Pardee if he was in favor of granting the variance. Mr. Pardee indicated the Fire Department wishes to have their antenna to have the height it currently is or higher. Mr. Smith asked Mr. Pardee’s opinion if communications will be degraded in the coming years and Mr. Pardee felt he is not qualified to answer. Fire Chief VonOostendorp stressed the importance that the existing tower needs to be replaced as the radio communication of all three Fire Departments as well as the Highway Department are dependent upon it. Mr. Polio indicated that the hardship ultimately will be degradation of the signal due to tree growth over time and questioned if a radio repeater had been suggested. Fire Chief VonOostendorp indicated a radio repeater type of system is currently in place but due to the height of the antennas the signal is inadequate and it is better to have a central point. Chief Fuchs explained that all signal is originated out of Dispatch and if a remote tower would be used as a repeater it would need to be installed at a height allowing for line of sight over the tree lines with microwave dishes.
Ms. Williams asked for confirmation that there would be an improvement of signal to all volunteer Fire Departments. Fire Chief VonOostendorp indicated that the Fire Departments rely on a paging system. Mr. Pardee indicated approximately 55 volunteers from the Fire Departments rely upon the signaling. Fire Chief Heibeck indicated that there were approximately 55 volunteers from Georgetown as well. Ms. Whaley asked if the current height of the Redding Ridge antenna was 90 feet. Mr. Pardee confirmed and indicated the higher the antenna the better the communication. Chief Fuchs noted that all the signals between police, fire, and highway departments are coordinated. Mr. Given stated there has been no indication that there is a current issue with hardship of line of sight. Fire Chief VonOostendorp indicated that the system currently works okay but there are some signaling issues. Mr. Pardee noted that there are gaps in the Ridge area in the Putnam Park and Huntington Park, in the northeastern edge of Redding. Ms. Williams asked if an upgraded system would help correct these signal gaps. Mr. Pardee felt that an engineer propagation study would be needed.
Mr. Polio inquired if the transmitters are currently operating at maximum permissible FCC licensed power. Mr. Pardee indicated that the transmitter at the Redding Ridge Fire Department was operating at the maximum, 100 watts. Chief Fuchs also indicated the Police Department was operating at the maximum, 100 watts.
Charlie Couch, 5 Topstone Road. Mr. Couch indicated that while it is understood that a new tower is needed he raised concerns about the long term plan and whether all options and alternatives have been properly researched. He stated that he is in support of moving the tower out of the historic district to a remote location. As proposed, the tower is a potential eyesore and not in keeping with the historic character of Redding Center.
Ms. Williams asked Mr. Polio if there were technical expertise at the September meeting. Mr. Polio indicated that Eric Fine of Northeastern Communications did cover the technical details of the project in September but raised concern that there had not been an independent study. Chief Fuchs indicated that Eric Fine provided a presentation at both the Town meeting and the September meeting. He also indicated that the independent firm Centek Engineering provided a structural study of the tower.
Ms. Whaley asked when discussing where the tower would sit on the property was the fact it was located in the historic district taken into account. Chief Fuchs indicated there were three options discussed: replacing the tower in the same location; placing the tower in the middle of the parking lot with the loss of 2 parking spaces; or behind the building so that it would be less visible. Ms. Whaley inquired if other options were considered, such as changing the appearance. Chief Fuchs indicated he could make it look like a pine tree or other object to make it more aesthetically pleasing although additional cost would need to be considered with such options.
Ms. Williams received and read a letter into the record from the Redding Preservation Society in opposition to the proposed tower height and location indicating that while the Society supports public safety measures throughout the Town they are concerned with the over-stated use of cell towers and communication towers and the degradation of the historic district.
Ms. Williams received and read a letter into the record from Susan and Raymond D’Angelo in opposition to the proposed tower height and location indicating there will be a negative visual impact on the district as well as the Town in general. They do not wish to compromise the integrity of the historic district and request denial of the variance.
Cecilia Staunton, 15 Cross Highway. Mrs. Staunton indicated that her property is directly adjacent to the proposed site of the new communications tower. She raised concerns that previous information provided to the Town for the Town vote did not indicate the correct height of the tower or that it would include additional microwave dishes and did not take into account the character and charm of the historic district. Mrs. Staunton provided photos to the Board members with a mock-up drawing of where the proposed tower would be seen by her own property as well as by the Town Green. She does not feel that an adequate hardship has been proven. Mr. Polio asked Mrs. Staunton her opinion of the idea of creating a ‘pine tree look’. Mrs. Staunton indicated that no consideration has been given to the historic nature of Redding Center and their neighbors. She provided a petition to the Board with 60+ signatures in opposition to the proposed tower. Mrs. Staunton suggested a commission be established to find a solution that would be amenable to all concerned. Mr. Smith inquired of Mrs. Staunton if there is a location that she would suggest. She indicated that on the other side of the Police Department’s parking lot, closest to Route 107, with an effort to make it more aesthetically pleasing. She feels other locations should be considered.
Reid Gray, 15 Lonetown Road. Mr. Gray indicated that there is a resident with property located on the east side of Lonetown Road for a potential location for the tower and would like to help if possible.
Mr. Polio asked Mr. Fuchs if there was any way to shore up the existing tower so that it would be safe for use. Chief Fuchs indicated that was not an option with the current lattice style tower and the load capacity required.
Mr. Gray asked as to why microwave line of sight is required. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated that a point to point signal is needed and he indicated that the tower on the private property on Lonetown Road would not be able to handle the load capacity and would need to be rebuilt.
Mr. Couch inquired if the antenna could be attached to a commercial tower. Response: Chief Fuchs confirmed that is possible although the flag pole design does not allow for the configuration of the antennas.
Vanessa Alward, 159 Cross Highway. Ms Alward inquired about the tower being installed at the Redding Ridge Fire Department and if it would be possible for it to handle all of the emergency services needs. Response: ~Chief Fuchs stated that the proposed tower at the Fire Department would need to be higher to accommodate all of the antennas.
Mr. Couch inquired if Chief Fuchs was aware of the current design proposal of the Ridge Fire Department tower. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated he was aware of two public safety antennas on the tower. Mr. Pardee indicated that there will be a triangular mount on the tower but it is up to the Siting Council to determine the height. To change the height of the fire departments antenna they would need to negotiate with the carrier. Mr. Smith noted that on October 30, 2014 the Siting Council granted an order for a 150 foot tower. Chief Fuchs indicated that the police department would still require a 120 foot tower in order to have the connection to the Ridge tower.
First Selectman Julia Pemberton, in response to Mr. Couch’s comment for a tower at the Highway Garage, stated that there had been a cell tower proposed with the idea of moving the police tower to the Highway Garage but that tower was never constructed. The tower currently standing is a new application from AT&T.
Mr. Gray indicated that on his own property he deals with high trees that have required trimming and maintenance due to the past storms and he can suggest a vendor that is able to trim and top off trees in an aesthically-pleasing way. He also questioned if it was possible to have the transmission power of 100 watts increased. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated that the transmission power is maxed out.
Helene Hawk, 8 Cricklewood Road. Ms. Hawk voiced concerns that all potential alternatives have not been considered and have not given regard to the historic nature of the Town. She inquired if there is a rush or danger if a new tower is not approved. Response: Ms. Williams inquired about the structural integrity of the tower and asked Chief Fuchs if a timeline was given to the current structure. Chief Fuchs did not have a timeline but indicated that two reputable companies have provided him with an engineering opinion that the structure needs to be replaced.
Lara Schuler, 155 Portland Avenue. Ms. Schuler indicated that at the September meeting Chief Fuchs stated there were no issues during the past storms. She does not feel there has been adequate due diligence and questions the urgency of the matter or the necessity of the proposed height or location.
First Selectman Julia Pemberton confirmed that the Board members had a copy of the letter from Centek Engineering and clarified that Centek Engineering is an independent company and not the company constructing the new proposed tower. Mr. Smith read the letter from Centek Engineering provided with the September application explaining the need for replacing the tower into the record.
Ms. Hawk inquired if there have been structures added to the tower that are the cause for the structure to be unsound. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated that the age of the tower is the primary issue.
Ms. Hawk inquired if one of the other locations considered would be as visible to the Stauntons. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated it would be less visible to the Stauntons and more visible to ‘Jeff” (adjacent neighbor to the police department).
Ed Staunton, 15 Cross Highway. Mr. Staunton voiced the idea of a modular approach previously raised at the September meeting. Mr. Staunton believes that the preservation of the historic nature of the area is important and there are other alternatives that need to be exhausted with technical expertise sought. Response: Chief Fuchs indicated that Eric Fine stated there were no alternatives and that a tower needed to be installed.
Ms. Alward voiced concern that there needs to be a demonstrated topographical and undue hardship.
Ms. Whaley asked Mrs. Staunton if there was another location amenable to her. Mrs. Staunton and her neighbor “Jeffrey” does not understand why the tower could not be placed in the lot closest to the edge of Route 107. Chief Fuchs indicated the edge closer to Route 107 which would then require additional tower/antenna height to maintain the proposed height. Mr. Given stated that at the September meeting there was discussion of having the tower remain in its current location which required additional expense. Chief Fuchs confirmed that there would be an additional expense due to a temporary tower needed in order for the old tower to be dismantled and the new tower installed. Any new location does not require a temporary tower.
Fire Chief VonOostendorp stated that emergency services are always concerned with the “what if?” and plan for the eventual and preparedness therefore hedging against obsolescence.
Mr. Couch made comment that the trees are maxed out. First Selectman Julia Pemberton indicated that she had a response from the tree warden, Sean McNamara, which indicated that the trees surrounding the Police Department are at an immature height. Specifically, he referenced a Norway Spruce at the base of the tower that will get much taller in height and suggested removing the tree as a more cost effective solution. Information of the expected growth of the tree species around the PD were provided: Norway Spruce 115 – 180 ft; Sugar Maple 82 – 118 ft; Black Locust 170 ft; and White Pine 200 ft (located on the neighbors property). The Selectmen sought out this opinion as they were concerned about the impact on the residents as well as assuring that public safety would be adequate.
Ms. Hawk voiced in summary that there have been alternatives discussed this evening such as putting up a temporary tower to keep the tower in the same place, and questions if there are other outside consults that may be obtained.
Mr. Staunton made mention that installing this monopole among the trees for screening it may also be open to damage by trees in a storm.
Mr. Couch stated that Redding is a Town full of creative people and he believes that through mutual effort and committee a solution can be reached.
First Selectman Julia Pemberton indicated that this was a process that began during the last budget season and alternatives were sought at that time and much of the information was provided at the Town meeting. When looking to the Siting Council it was kept in mind to build only what was needed with the capacity to expand at a later date, as well as keeping the public safety in mind. Ms. Pemberton stated she did not believe there was another suitable location for the tower. She indicated that while there are options, such as making it look like a pine tree, or choosing a lattice style versus monopole, it requires both time and money and the immediate concern is that the current tower is not sound which creates risk.
Mr. Given inquired whether with the current 120 ft tower would currently be adequate to function with the Ridge tower at 120 ft. Chief Fuchs indicated that the antennas currently used are collectively 18 feet tall. From the propagation study obtained if the tower height only remained at 100 feet there would not be radio signal to the Ridge; if the tower height is 120 feet then a signal would be achieved to the Ridge.
Mr. Polio inquired as to the possibility of antennas with different propagation patterns. Chief Fuchs indicated that all three antennas would be changed, Police and Highway would be on the same bandwidth with Fire on a separate frequency. Mr. Polio asked Chief Fuchs if Eric Fine had looked at alternative antennas and Chief Fuchs indicated that other options were considered and the 18 foot antenna is the best suited solution given the topography.
Ms. Whaley indicated that at the September meeting the proposed tower height was taken into consideration for tree growth over 10-20 years and asks if the report from the tree warden was made available to Eric Fine. Given the expected growth of trees the modular style pole seemed to be best suited to accommodate a future need. Ms. Pemberton indicated that she received the email from Sean McNamara on September 15th and it had not been shared with Eric Fine.
Chief Fuchs asked if the Board has the ability to grant a future need, 5-10 years out, in the event of signal degradation. Ms. Williams indicated that the Board’s responsibility is also as public safety commissioners and a future need would be addressed. Mr. Staunton agreed that a modular tower would be a compromise over time. Mr. Smith inquired if the phone lines are currently the only means of communication with the Ridge. Chief Fuchs confirme
Ms. Williams asked if a modular tower was used if microwave technology could not be utilized. Chief Fuchs indicated that at 100 feet microwave technology would not work, only at 120 feet, per the study obtained.
Mr. Smith asked Chief Fuchs if he would be satisfied with a variance of 118 feet with the Board agreeing that if there is signal degradation in the coming years the height can be changed. Chief Fuchs stated that he believes the 120 foot tower (138 feet with antenna) is the best solution although the biggest fear is that the tower could come down.
Ms. Williams commented that the Ridge’s tower was being increased. Fire Chief
VonOostendorp stated that the current tower is being replaced by a 150 foot cell tower and the fire department will have their antenna located at 80 feet. Ms. Williams inquired if the Town could request the signal to be raised higher. Chief Fuchs indicated that if the Police Department’s tower was at 100 feet the microwave technology would not function with the Ridge’s 150 foot tower.
Mr. Staunton requested that if a decision was made regarding the location of the tower that the neighbors are notified and allowed to have an opportunity to review any pursuant tree trimming that may be necessary. Ms. Pemberton stated consultation would be required. She stated that if there are trees or tree branches that are a danger they require trimming.
Upon motion of Mr. Smith and second of Mr. Given, the Board entered Deliberative Session at 9:55 p.m.
Ms. Williams noted that she spoke with Zoning Enforcement Officer Aimee Pardee in regards to the definition of a building vs. structure as it relates to the setback regulations and this Application and that the tower is not included in the regulation as a building and as such would not be subject to a setback requirement for a building.
The Board members discussed the alternate locations suggested on the Police Department property for the tower, the communications between the police department tower and the fire department towers, as well as the hardships faced of the lot size and shape and the concern for public safety. Mr. Smith stated that if there is a way to find a solution when there is an engineering report stating that the structure is unsafe then it would be irresponsible not to act at this time; Ms. Williams and Mr. Cooke concurred
Upon motion of Ms. Williams and second of Mr. Polio, the Board voted to exit deliberative session at 10:25 p.m.
Ms. Williams questioned the Fire Department representatives if the Police Department would be able to communicate with the Fire Department in the event the phones lines go down with the current antennas in place. Fire Chief VonOostendorf confirmed that there would not be radio capability between the Police Department and Fire Department in the event the phone lines go down.
Upon motion of Ms. Williams and second of Mr. Smith, the Board re-entered Deliberative Session at 10:26 p.m.
Application: 14-11-02 – 96 Hill Road – Owner: ~Town of Redding (Map 22 & Lot 94) – Applicant: Town of Redding Police Department –Upon motion of Mr. Polio and the second of Mr. Cooke, the Board voted to 4-1 to grant the Town of Redding Police Department application for variance to the height and setback requirements for Zoning Regulation 3.12 for the construction of a 120 foot radio tower topped with a 18 foot antenna to be constructed in the same location as the existing tower due to hardships of degradation of radio signal from the surrounding tree line, lot size and shape, and consideration of public safety.
Upon motion of Ms. Williams and second of Mr. Smith, the Board voted to exit deliberative session at 10:35 p.m.
The Board voted unanimously to adjourn at 10:35 p.m.
These minutes have not been approved by the ZBA.
Submitted by klg 11/20/14