East Hartford considers cell tower plan

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Wed., Nov. 21, 2012
The front of the property at 465 Hills St., which is being considered as the site for a new cell phone tower that would be placed in the center of the property. Photo by Evan Pajer.
The front of the property at 465 Hills St., which is being considered as the site for a new cell phone tower that would be placed in the center of the property. Photo by Evan Pajer.

Hills Street in East Hartford could soon have a new addition to its skyline: a 107-foot cell phone tower that has been proposed by Hartford-based Message Center Management. The tower has been somewhat controversial since its initial introduction.

Mayor Marcia Leclerc said the tower would provide service for multiple carriers in the area and would address connectivity issues in the center of the town, between Interstate 384 and the Hills Street area. "We have a large number of people from the area who call and complain about the lack of service," she said. Leclerc said the tower is important not only for residents, but also for emergency response crews. "This tower is critically important to the town of East Hartford," she said.

The company initially proposed a site for the tower in Gorman Park, which was ultimately rejected by residents in a public meeting held by the town and removed from consideration. Since then, two more sites were selected. The first candidate, a property at 56 Hills St., would put the tower in the rear of the property. "It was in a very open neighborhood," Leclerc said of the initial location. “It would have been intrusive to residential properties.”

The second site, at 465 Hills St., seems to be the more likely of the two properties to be picked. The proposal would place the tower in the center of the 12-acre property, behind a treeline. Heidi Mcnamar, who owns the property, said the company approached her for a 10- to 15-year lease on the tower site. Mcnamar said she doesn't believe the tower will be a major disruption. “They floated balloons already, it's not that high,” she said. Mcnamar said that her cell phone does not get reception inside her home, and that she did not understand why residents rejected the Gorman Park proposal. "If they don't want it, I'll take it," she said. "I'll be glad to have cell service."

The tower location still has a process to go through before it is ultimately approved. Maria Scotti, director of Message Center Management, said two technical reports, one for each of the sites, were submitted to Town Hall on Oct. 19. By state law, the reports must be available for 90 days before a proposal can be submitted to the Connecticut Siting Council, which regulates the placement of cell towers. The Siting Council will hold a public meeting about the placement of the tower once it reviews the proposal, which Scotti said would happen sometime in January or February of next year. The council's approval process includes a visit to the site, Scotti said.

Scotti said that the tower, if put in place, will be concealed as a "monopine" and disguised as a large pine tree. Scotti said that although residents have typically disliked the monopine design since it became available 10 years ago, the new tower would be different. "The way they're manufactured now is much more pleasant to view, much more realistic than the current ones, and far more technically advanced," she said.

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