Westport toughens cell tower requirements

Would-be builders now required to explore alternative sites and explain why they won't work

By Ted Hayes
Posted 5/6/22

Telecommunications construction companies must now seriously consider alternative sites when they propose building cellular telephone towers in Westport, after voters at Tuesday's Town Meeting passed …

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Westport toughens cell tower requirements

Would-be builders now required to explore alternative sites and explain why they won't work

Posted

Telecommunications construction companies must now seriously consider alternative sites when they propose building cellular telephone towers in Westport, after voters at Tuesday's Town Meeting passed a by-law amendment that requires companies to consider alternatives to their preferred location.

The by-law amendment comes after the zoning board of appeals last summer rejected a proposal by Municipal Communications LLC to build a cell tower on Masquesatch Road, citing multiple issues with its height and location. Throughout the zoning review process, town officials and residents opposed to the tower said they had little luck convincing company officials to look at other sites which they believed were more suitable than the Masquesatch location.

With the amendment to the town's telecommunications facilities overlay district in place, zoning board chairman Zoning board chairman Roger Menard said the town would have more power to control where they go.

The amendment requires that at least two alternate sites be studied, and that they must "identify the rationale for dismissing the alternate sites."

"They're going to come in with essentially, 'I want to go with Site 1; here's where I want to put my tower,'" he said. "The problem with that is that it may not be the best spot. It may be the best one for the tower company, but it may not be the best one for Westport in general."

Apart from requiring at least two alternatives, the prospective builder "must have demonstrated that the alternate sites are not acceptable," he said.

Though Westport rejected the Masquesatch application, the town is not free of Municipal Communications yet. Shortly after the town's decision, the firm appealed the case to the state Superior Court as well as United States District Court. Those cases are currently moving through the court system though they have not yet been adjudicated.

Menard said that had the by-law been in place last year, "we woiuld not have gone through this" litigation.

"We are hoping that passing of this will reduce the possibility of further litigation from companies coming in in the future that want to put cell towers across the town."

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