New CT Law Strengthens Process for Public Input on Cell Tower Proposals

June 17, 2015

Sen. Hwang praises adoption of legislation that provides funding mechanism
for local residents to engage in decision-making process.

Under a new law passed during the 2015 Legislative Session, municipalities and local residents will no longer have to foot the bill to hold a public information meeting on a proposed cell tower – the applicant will.

Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28), a leading proponent of greater local control, accountability and transparency in cell tower decisions, was a co-sponsor of the legislation (Public Act No. 15-186).

“It is absolutely essential that residents who live near a proposed cell tower are engaged in the process early and in a meaningful way that is open, inclusive and respectful,” Sen. Hwang said. “I am thankful this law provides a funding mechanism that helps achieve that for our neighborhoods without placing a financial burden on our already tight municipal budgets.”

The Connecticut Siting Council, a quasi-governmental agency, has sole jurisdiction in these matters. And while the Council painstakingly reviews proposals to ensure they meet a strict set of legal criteria, of the last 146 cell tower applications received, 113 were approved, 12 were denied, and 21 were withdrawn. In other words, three out of four cell tower applications are approved.

“That’s why it is essential to have stakeholders – both the applicant and the public – come together to address any potential issues and work together prior to the submission of an application,” Sen. Hwang said. “We need to employ a proactive approach.”

Indeed, a groundswell of grassroots involvement led to coordinated community efforts that helped thwart at least two cell tower proposals within the past year – one in the Green’s Farms section of Westport and another near the branch public library in Fairfield. While the Fairfield proposal was withdrawn, the one in Green’s Farms is still, unfortunately, an ongoing possibility, Sen. Hwang noted.

“I believe we all recognize the need for cell phone companies to increase their capacity to meet growing demand, but we must work together to create an equitable balance between their needs as businesses and our rights and responsibilities as citizens to ensure the health and safety of people and our environment,” Sen. Hwang said. “Once again, I’m confident that this new law puts us further down that path.”

The new law builds on one Sen. Hwang co-sponsored in 2012, when he was a state Representative. That law, Public Act 12-165, expands the factors the Siting Council must consider when approving cell towers; prohibits the Council from approving a telecommunications tower’s installation within 250 feet of a school or commercial child day care center; and requires telecommunications tower developers to consult with municipalities that may be affected by the location of a tower at least 90 days before applying to the Council.