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On Tuesday, May 25, the Connecticut Siting Council held a public hearing on the proposed cell tower at 16 Coote Hill Road in Sherman. The council has complete legal jurisdiction over the placement of telecommunications towers and is expected to make a decision by November of this year.

Robert Burns, a civil engineer who is working on the proposed project, described the site location in depth, before the public began to comment. John Morrisette, who sits on the Council, moderated the hearing, keeping a strict time limit for speakers.

First Selectman Don Lowe expressed that he is in favor of the cell tower, saying that he is “excited here in Sherman at the prospect of having cell service…I fully support this cell tower and I hope with all my heart that you approve it.” He said that he is most interested in increasing the safety of those who live in, and pass through, southern Sherman. He went on to stress that dozens of sites were considered before focusing on Coote Hill Road. Lowe explained that the sites were eliminated from consideration for a variety of reasons, including inadequate signal strength, homeowner rejection, insurmountable environmental issues, and more.

Residents of Coote Hill Road spoke out passionately against the cell tower. Multiple neighbors pointed out that the private, narrow road is not able to handle the heavy traffic that will be required to create the site and erect the tower. Given that Coote Hill Road is maintained entirely by its nine property owners, the residents fear the road’s maintenance issues, as well as traffic on unpassable strips. Peter Kuring emphasized that the residential road was “never designed to maintain a commercial enterprise.” He went on to say “It is entirely unfair that nine homeowners bear the cost of maintaining the road” and that given the erosion and damage that he is sure will occur, the road is “entirely unsuitable for this venture.”

“Two cars can’t even pass…I don’t know how we’re going to deal with it,” Ronney Berinstein said, also noting his flooding concerns as 124 trees are slated to be removed above his property. He also said that cell phone service is available to southern Sherman, if residents opt to use Verizon. Loretta Quaranto said that the tower will “disturb the essential character of the neighborhood.” She went on to cite health concerns and property values, as she was able to easily see the balloon from her home.

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) President Kris Fazzone gave his support to the cell tower, saying that after 34 years with the SVFD, he appreciates that “communication is one of the cornerstones of emergency services.” He went on to say that the emergency services personnel “Need to have cellular service to communicate with the hospital,” and referenced a recent crisis situation that went awry due to lack of service.

Several Sherman residents voiced concerns, such as Bill McCann, the chairmen of the Sherman Conservation Commission. He is nervous about the monitoring and compliance with rules that might impact the environment, including erosion, wetlands, and more. Stan Greenbaum, a vocal opponent of the cell tower, spoke out against the tower. He has now been appointed intervenor status by the siting council and will take part in cross-examinations at the next siting council evidentiary hearing. Roderike Pole spoke about health concerns, with many houses close in location to the tower. “I moved to Sherman three years ago for the rural location,” Tara Clancy said, pointing out the significant health dangers. Patricia Bailey agreed, saying that not only is Sherman rural, she questioned if newer technology will replace cell towers soon.

Members of the Sherman Telecommunications Committee advocated for approving the site, with Gail Maletz stressing the safety issues and need for cell service. Terri Hahn agreed, saying that, especially given the pandemic, “cell service is critical to keeping residents and travellers safe and secure.” Resident Zoe Sochor says that she’s witnessed several accidents, with some people needing to enter her home to call for help, given the lack of cell service. Regarding the tower, she asked “If not now, when?”

The Connecticut Siting Council’s next meeting on the Coote Hill cell tower is scheduled for Tuesday, 6/24, to conduct an evidentiary hearing.

By Sarah Opdahl