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Petition No. 697
Nextel Communications
Durham, Connecticut
May 11, 2005
Updated Staff Report

On November 4, 2004, the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) received a petition (Petition) from Nextel Communications of the Mid-Atlantic, Inc. d/b/a Nextel Communications (Nextel) for a declaratory ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need is required for its proposed modifications to an existing monopole located at 143 Old Blue Hills Road, Durham. The existing monopole is 100’ feet tall (without appurtenances). Nextel seeks to extend the monopole to 120’ in order to remove their omni-directional whip antennas and install a platform of 12 panel antennas at the 115’ level of the tower. This would require the relocation of certain town antennas. Nextel states that the proposed modification would improve frequency reuse, provide more control over the coverage footprint, provide greater localized coverage within the intended coverage area, and reduce interference to neighboring sites.

In the Petition, Nextel also originally sought to remove the Town of Durham’s (Town) existing 30’ whip antenna and replace it with a 14’ whip antenna to be located on a 4’ standoff arm at a height of 118’. (By letter dated November 18, 2004 (Town Letter), the Communications Coordinator for the Town stated that the 30’ whip antenna does not exist.) Nextel also seeks to remove the Town’s cellwave antenna and relocate it to a 4’ standoff arm at a height of 118’. In addition, Nextel seeks to remove its existing equipment shelter and ice bridge located in the southwestern portion of the compound. Nextel would install a 10’ x 20’ equipment shelter, an ice bridge, and a concrete retaining wall within the fenced area in the northeastern side of the compound. Lastly, Nextel would remove three coaxial cables and install 12 coaxial cables within the proposed ice bridge to connect to the proposed panel antennas.

In the Town Letter, some possible discrepancies in the Petition were brought to the Council’s attention. First, it was argued that the 30’ whip antenna does not exist. Next, Verizon Wireless is not listed as an existing carrier. In addition, the Town’s cellwave antenna is listed in the Petition as being located at the 122’ level, whereas the Town Letter asserts that the height is 112’7". The Airspace Obstruction report lists the structure height at 500’, in apparent conflict with the height in the Petition. The Town Letter also argues that total height with appurtenances is currently 124’ and would reach 132’ with the proposed modifications.

The Town Letter also included some additional concerns about the proposed project. It is recommended that at least one spare underground conduit be installed prior to the installation of the equipment building, as it would not be possible to access the area underneath the building later. Concerns were expressed regarding access to the emergency generator. Also, some structural concerns were expressed such whether the side arm mounting was taken into account, as well as weight and wind load of the Model 101-68-10-3-03N antenna. Additional structural concerns include the possibility of having to mount the antenna cables on the outside of the monopole, the possible cutting of cable ports into the tower, and a possible redundant dish listing in the tower inventory. Visibility concerns related to the appurtenances were also expressed. Also, a list of recommended conditions was included.

On December 16, 2004, staff issued a first set of interrogatories to investigate the issues brought to light in the Town Letter. On December 21, 2004, the Council received a request for a hearing from the Town. The petition was field reviewed on January 4, 2005 by Council member Daniel P. Lynch, Jr. and Mike Perrone of the Council staff.

On February 23, 2005, the Council received the responses to the interrogatories and a filing correcting the errors in the original application. (Originally, the petition had incorrectly stated that there is an existing 30’ town whip antenna which extends to a maximum height of 132’.) The whip is actually 14’ tall and makes the existing total height with appurtenances 122’.

The applicant has originally stated in the petition that the total height with appurtenances would remain unchanged with the proposed modifications (i.e. the total height with appurtenances would remain at 132’, despite the 20’ increase in the monopole height). This has since been corrected. The total height with appurtenances would in fact increase from 122’ to 132’ with the proposed modifications.

A revised abutters notice was sent on February 17, 2005 to correct the original notice. (The original notice had indicated that there would be no increase in the total height with appurtenances.) The revised notice properly informed the abutters that the total height would in fact increase.

There are 19 homes within a 1000’ radius of the tower. The closest home is 350’ away and is located on 40 Stephen Woods Lane. The tower is and would still be visible from this home with the proposed modifications. The incremental visual impact would be largely due to the additional platform, as seen in the photo simulation. The viewshed analysis indicates that the tower is visible both seasonally, as well as year round from portions of Old Blue Hills Road adjacent to the site. During the field review, staff observed that the tower is indeed visible from the home on the opposite side of Old Blue Hills Road.

The worst-case power density at the base of the tower would be 23.28% of the maximum permissible exposure. No antenna transmission cables would be located on the outside of the monopole. In response to the structural concerns in the Town Letter, Nextel has indicated that the 4’ standoff arm, as well as the cellwave antenna have been taken into account structurally. Nextel also noted that a 5’ walkway to be located between the existing shelter and the proposed Nextel shelter would not affect access to the emergency generator. Nextel also notes that the existing Verizon antennas are taken into account in the structural analysis. Lastly, Nextel would work with the Town to maintain the continuity of the Town’s emergency services while the construction is taking place.

On April 26, 2005, Nextel held a public meeting to address any outstanding concerns that neighbors or the Town had regarding its proposal. The residents’ concerns were singularly related to RF emissions. Nextel explained the dynamics of RF emissions and reiterated that the site total would be approximately 23 % of the allowable total. Nextel then met with First Selectwoman Maryann Boord and the Town’s technical expert Scott Wright.

By letter dated April 27, 2005, Nextel listed and responded to all of the concerns of the Town and agreed to meet all conditions, including not limited to: installing a spare 3" and 4" conduit; locating all cables within the tower; minimizing the Town’s off-air time during construction; providing sufficient headroom under the antennas; replacement of the Town’s dipole antenna; including a jumper at the antenna end to allow for cable movement; and temporary bracing of Town microwave antenna.