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PETITION NO. 687 - Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless petition for a declaratory ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need is required for the establishment of a wireless telecommunications facility at the Harvest Baptist Church, 1440 Litchfield Turnpike (Route 202), New Hartford, Connecticut.

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Connecticut

Siting

Council

December 1, 2004

Opinion

On December 4, 2001, Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless petitioned the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) for a declaratory ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need would be required for the installation of a telecommunication facility at the Harvest Baptist Church, 1440 Litchfield Turnpike (Route 202), New Hartford, Connecticut. Verizon Wireless intends to design the facility as a 125-foot bell tower placed on the church property. The site would provide approximately 1.5 miles of service to Route 202 in the western portion of New Hartford.

The bell tower would consist of a three-pole structure that would function both as a telecommunications facility and as a bell tower. The poles would be placed 15 feet apart in a triangular pattern. One pole would be 125 feet in height. The other two poles would be 115 feet in height. RF translucent panels mounted at the 77-foot level of the structure would connect all three poles. The bell tower would be designed to support five wireless carriers using a combination of interior flush mounted antennas and platform mounted antennas. The platforms would be placed behind the translucent panels.

The bell tower is considered a "stealth" application since the observer would only view the three poles and translucent panels. The observer would not be able to view any antennas or associated mounting platforms. The bell tower is also in keeping with the existing land use of the property.

The bell tower would be constructed as part of an outdoor pavilion structure. The pavilion would be a 40-foot by 92-foot open sided structure to be used as an outdoor seating area for religious services. The bell tower would be placed on a concrete platform centered in front of the seating area. The pavilion platform would be six feet above grade bringing the total height of the bell tower to 131 feet above ground level. Radio equipment would be placed in a basement room on the pavilion, accessed by a paved driveway extending from an existing parking lot on the property.

Verizon Wireless proposed the pavilion structure to the Town in May of 2004. Verizon Wireless submitted a site plan modification application to the Town Planning and Zoning Commission on June 17, 2004. The application contained a detailed site plan regarding the pavilion structure as well as the bell tower. The P&Z commission approved the pavilion portion of the project on July 14, 2004. The P&Z Commission further acknowledged that the Council had exclusive jurisdiction over the bell tower portion of the proposal.

The Council has carefully analyzed the record in this proceeding and determined that the proposed site is appropriate for the bell tower structure and that the proposed facility would not have an adverse environmental effect. The proposed site is located on a 9.55-acre parcel developed with a church and an outbuilding. The bell tower and pavilion would be located on a grassy hillside east of the church. The bell tower would be compatible with existing site use and would not be out of visual context when compared to other church steeples and bell towers in other parts of the state. The Council believes that bell tower design is an effective use of stealth technology that meets a coverage need and offers flexible co-location opportunities for other carriers while concealing antennas and associated platforms from view. The bell tower further compliments the site by serving as an important competent of the proposed church pavilion.

The visual effect of the facility would primarily be to four residences located west of the site off Route 202 and two residences located south of the site along Ramstein Road. The residences to the west are set back from Route 202 and would have year-round views of the upper 30-40 feet of the bell tower. The two residences on Ramstein Road, approximately 0.2 miles south of the site, would have year-round views of the existing church and the proposed bell-tower and pavilion due to a lack of vegetative screening on the southern portion of the church property. The visual impact of the bell tower from Route 202 abutting the site would be negligible since the bell tower would fit into the context of the church property.

Construction of the facility would have no effect on endangered, threatened, or special concern species, wetlands, wooded areas, historic and archeological resources, and would not constitute a hazard to air navigation.

The radio frequency power density levels at the base of the proposed bell 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 bell tower be brought into compliance with such standards. The Council will require that the power densities be remodeled in the event other carriers locate at this facility.

Based on the record in this proceeding, the Council will issue a declaratory ruling that the proposed installation of a telecommunication facility at the Harvest Baptist Church, 1440 Litchfield Turnpike (Route 202), New Hartford, Connecticut would not have a substantial adverse environmental effect and would not require a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need.