At the Dec. 20 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice gave an update on the proposed Verizon cell tower to be located on the school bus depot property at 180 School Rd., opposite Middlebrook School.

The update came after a second “red balloon” test was conducted on Dec. 2, as a result of pressure from residents in the area who believed the tower would be more visible than Verizon represented in the first test.

Verizon has not yet formally reported the results of the second test, which included an alternate location on the same property that would minimize the impact to neighbors.

“I was hoping that I would have an update on the Verizon cell tower,” Vanderslice told the selectmen. “I expected to have all the photos by now, but I haven’t received them.”

In the latest test, Verizon agreed to residents’ requests to assess the tower’s visibility from their individual properties. Vanderslice believes the test was productive.

“[Verizon] took photos wherever [residents] wanted — front yard, back yard, porch — and the whole thing went really well,” Vanderslice said. “The residents generally appreciated the fact that [Verizon] came [back] and they did that.”

“I don’t want to say definitively that [Verizon] is going to come back with a plan to change the location,” Vanderslice cautioned. “I’ve heard that [the second location] may be the preferable location, but we’ll have to wait to get the photos.”

Responding to a follow-up question from GOOD Morning Wilton on Dec. 29, Vanderslice said she had not received any feedback directly from residents after the second test, but an attorney for Verizon expressed to her that “the experience with the residents was positive and most expressed a preference for the alternative location.”

[UPDATE: After this story was published, GOOD Morning Wilton was contacted by resident Brian Radle that in fact some residents had exchanged emails with Vanderslice after the second test, contrary to Vanderslice’s statement.

When asked about the discrepancy, Vanderslice apologized for being “distracted” when she responded to GMW‘s inquiry, as she was on vacation at the time. GMW made a similar error due to an editorial oversight and inadvertently omitted the email correspondence which GMW had received before the story was published. Information from those email exchanges, which took place Dec. 6-7, is reported here:

In Radle’s view, the second test was not entirely positive. He believed it validated the contention of some residents that a tower located on the original site would be more visible than Verizon portrayed in the first test.

“The test confirmed that the tower would be visible in many properties that were previously identified as having no visibility by Verizon,” Radle wrote in his email to Vanderslice. “A few examples include my property at 103 Catalpa and our neighbors at 111 Catalpa, 91 Catalpa, 87 Catalpa, 40 Hunting Ridge, 41 Hunting Ridge and 42 Hunting Ridge Ln. There may be others. The point is to highlight the visible area is significantly larger and impacts many properties that were not detailed in the prior report.”

According to Radle, the alternative location in the second test was an improvement for some, but not all residents. However, he also indicated Verizon’s suggestion to construct the tower in a way that resembled a pine tree (a “tree pole” or “pole pine” similar to a recently-constructed tower in New Canaan) would ameliorate the tower’s obtrusiveness.

“If the tower is able to be masked the same way as the New Canaan tower, my concerns and those neighbors who I have spoken with would be minimized,” Radle wrote to Vanderslice.

In the same email exchange, Vanderslice confirmed that Verizon would request a pine-look tower in its application to the CT Siting Council , including visuals to support the intended look.

She also made it clear the Town has its own objectives.

“The Town supports the [Verizon] application,” Vanderslice wrote to Radle and a number of other neighbors in the area.

Vanderslice advised residents who oppose the tower to provide their own testimony to the Siting Council and make any requests for additional information or assessments they seek, such as the coverage impact on a tower of reduced height, the viability of other locations, and other issues residents have raised.]

Vanderslice expects a meeting will be scheduled in January. If the results of the second test conclude the alternate location is preferable to the original location, another wetlands review will be needed, along with an amendment to the lease between the Town and Verizon to reflect the new location.

Vanderslice hopes to have additional information to share at the Jan. 9 BOS meeting.