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Saturday, March 24 Local

Opposition mounts against cell tower at hunt club

Opposition of a proposed cell tower at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club grows louder as Darien moves closer to the deadline to make recommendations to the Connecticut Siting Council.

The Board of Selectmen and Planning and Zoning Commission conducted a joint meeting Monday to receive public input about the proposed 120-foot-high AT&T cell tower. The input will be considered when drafting a letter regarding the cell tower to the siting council.

"The beauty and uniqueness of the Ox Ridge Hunt Club has been widely recognized and needs to be preserved," said Kevin Schwartz, who lives across the street from the hunt club. He added that a 120-foot silo is "hardly conspicuous" and is not "aesthetically pleasing."

"The first 85 feet will be constructed with concrete," Schwartz said. "Quite frankly, it looks like an industrial smokestack or missile silo."

The Connecticut Siting Council will consider the tower, which needs no local government approval. State law requires AT&T to consult with the town prior to filing an application with the council.

As part of AT&T's report to the town, it did consider other locations, but for various reasons those locations could not be considered viable tower sites, according to its proposal.

The site at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club meets AT&T's technical criteria and where AT&T could "creatively design" a tower to look like a silo that belongs on the property, according to a letter to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson from Christopher Fisher, an attorney from Cuddy & Feder, representing AT&T.

Schwartz and other Darien residents told the selectmen and P&Z members that the installation of the tower would negatively impact properly values in the neighborhood.

"There is $43 million in property that will be impacted by the tower," said LeLe Klein, who lives less than 3 miles from the hunt club. "If all these properties decrease in value, it will impact our taxes and affect the mill rate."

Klein said the town needs to consider the development of a wireless technology plan and she provided recommendations of companies that have worked with towns such as Greenwich.

Schwartz suggested that the cell tower be installed in the same manner that applications before the Planning and Zoning Commission are approved: to the town's standards.

"You can put cell coverage in, but it has to be to our standards," Schwartz said.

Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Steve Olvany told the crowd of roughly 30 people in the Town Hall auditorium that the commission is listening to their comments and is trying to do all it can.

The Board of Selectmen publicly decided to oppose the cell tower at its June 2 meeting.

"We'll do everything within our legal right to not only research this proposal, but to oppose this proposal," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said at the Monday, June 16, meeting.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg said there is no way of knowing what AT&T will do once it receives the letter from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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"It's hard to imagine a more unsightly location for this tower," said Kitty Lavin, who seemed on the verge of tears while speaking about the tower. She lives less than half a mile from the hunt club. "This is only the beginning of this problem. We urge you to take any and all actions to stop the construction of this utility tower."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6538; @Meg_DarienNews