CSC: DO 299 Opinion

DOCKET NO. 299 – Sprint Spectrum, L.P. application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, maintenance and operation of a telecommunications facility at 383 Torrington Road in Litchfield, Connecticut.








August 24, 2005


On September 30, 2004, Sprint Spectrum (Sprint), L.P. applied to the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate) for the construction, maintenance and operation of a wireless telecommunications facility to be located in the Town of Litchfield, Connecticut. Sprint’s facility would be located at 383 Torrington Road (Route 202) and would include a 130-foot monopole tower. Sprint’s objective in locating a facility here is to eliminate an existing coverage gap on Route 202 and surrounding areas in Litchfield.

Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless (Verizon) intervened in this proceeding with a petition to raise the height of the proposed monopole to 140 feet. Verizon is seeking to locate antennas at this site because it has no coverage or signal strength in the area of the proposed facility, having only recently started activating PCS sites in Litchfield County. None of Verizon’s currently activated sites in Litchfield County are in the vicinity of Sprint’s proposed site.

The proposed facility would consist of a 50-foot by 50-foot compound within a 100-foot by 100-foot lease area. Sprint would install 12 antennas at a centerline height of 127.5 feet. Cingular would add 6 antennas at a centerline height of 115 feet, and Verizon would install its antennas at a centerline height of 138 feet. The lease area is located on property used for several different commercial purposes within a residential zone. The Town of Litchfield has issued zoning and inland wetlands violation notices against the property owner.

Vehicular access to the facility would be over a paved parking lot and then over a 300-foot long travel-way through a wooded area. At the time of application, this travel-way consisted of wood chips and soil. Sprint would upgrade it to a gravel access road. The existing travel-way may have been established through a wetland area or within a wetland review area without permission having been obtained from the Litchfield wetlands commission. Utilities to the facility would be brought underground from a pole near an existing building at the front of the property.

A 140-foot tower at the proposed location would be visible year-round from approximately 105 acres in the surrounding area and from an additional 42 acres on a seasonal basis. The tower would be visible from a small portion of Litchfield’s historic district. The tower would not be visible from those portions of Routes 63 and 118 that have been designated scenic roadways by the Connecticut DOT.

There are no known existing populations of state endangered, threatened, or species of special concern at the proposed site. A facility at this location would not have any effect on architectural or archaeological resources.

The radio frequency power density levels at the base of the proposed tower would be well below federal and state standards for the frequencies used by wireless companies. If federal or state standards change, the Council will require that the tower be brought into compliance with such standards. The Council will require that the power densities be remodeled in the event other carriers add antennas to the tower.

The need for a facility offering coverage in this part of Litchfield was well established by testimony and correspondence referring to several accidents at which the timely availability of proper treatment, potentially life saving in at least one case, was hindered by the lack of existing cell phone service.

In this proceeding, an unusual number of different sites, or combinations of sites, were offered as alternatives to the proposed site. But none of these sites and their various combinations could replicate the coverage available from this one location. Choosing a different site as the location for a facility would result in the development of more sites than the one proposed. Approving the proposed site would, therefore, help to minimize the proliferation of cell phone facilities in the state.

The First Congregational Church on the Litchfield Green was often mentioned as a possible location for carrier antennas. Based on testimony of each carrier in this proceeding, however, any coverage from this location would be limited and could only supplement coverage from a primary site. Using this church as a site, therefore, would require more than the one site being proposed by Sprint.

The visibility of the tower was a matter of great concern to opponents of Sprint’s proposal, particularly its visual impact on Litchfield’s historic district. Even though the tower would be visible from this district, it would only be seen for a distance of approximately 1500 feet along Route 202 in the vicinity of the cemetery, and the view would be of only a portion of the tower. The Council finds that the tower’s overall visibility would be within the limits of acceptability and would, in all probability, be less than towers at the various alternative sites identified, all of which would need higher towers to provide coverage approaching the coverage available from Sprint’s site.

The Council was troubled, in this proceeding, by a seemingly inaccurate characterization by the applicant that owners of potential alternatives sites were "not interested" in having their properties considered when, in fact, there was some question as to whether these owners had received any solicitation of interest. The Council will expect more careful handling and accurate reporting of this issue in future applications.

The Council finds that the effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed telecommunications facility, including effects on the natural environment; ecological integrity and balance; public health and safety; scenic, historic, and recreational values; forests and parks; air and water purity; and fish and wildlife are not disproportionate either alone or cumulatively with other effects when compared to need, are not in conflict with policies of the State concerning such effects, and are not sufficient reason to deny this application. Therefore, the Council will issue a Certificate for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a 140-foot monopole tower at the proposed site at 383 Torrington Road (Route 202), in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Content Last Modified on 11/14/2005 4:14:06 PM