Cuddy & Feder Secures Approval for a New Tower Facility in an Unserved Area of Fairfield County
Cuddy & Feder’s Telecommunications Practice, led by Christopher Fisher and Lucia Chiocchio, guided Homeland Towers, LLC and AT&T through a contested case before the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) securing an approval for a new tower facility in the town of New Canaan Connecticut. This community along the Gold Coast of Connecticut historically lacked reliable wireless services, including public safety emergency communications. State approval for this new tower infrastructure project will fulfill the long-standing critical demand for network services to the public in parts of the state that have been unserved since the advent of commercial cellular.
The CSC is a state agency that has exclusive jurisdiction over new wireless tower infrastructure in Connecticut. Its role under state law is to find and balance the public need for any new tower with its environmental effects in ruling on applications. The process, however, is not like municipal zoning at all. Prior to submitting an application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate), applicants must formally consult with the local municipality and file a technical report. Once that is done, a CSC application is filed which involves motions, interrogatories, cross-examination of witnesses and public hearings that are considered a contested case conducted via the State’s administrative procedure act. In this particular Docket, the CSC considered a new tower facility in suburban community with a unique set of facts.
New Canaan conducted a resident survey in 2012 where 94% of respondents reported dropped calls and an independent study in 2014 concluded that gaps in wireless service would need to be remedied by new tower facilities in several locations, including the northwestern part of the Town. After more than ten years of industry searches for a tower site in this area of the Town, Homeland Towers teamed with AT&T to propose a 110’ tall monopine on a site it could secure a lease. This tower site would work in conjunction with another monopine wireless facility in the northeast portion of the Town that the CSC issued a Certificate to Homeland Towers and AT&T two years ago with Cuddy & Feder’s guidance. Testimony about FirstNet and local first responder support for the tower as an important part of the nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network approved by Congress were presented to the CSC. Virtual evidentiary hearings, formal intervention by opponents of the tower and a significant review was conducted by the CSC during the pandemic with a record built leading to the CSC’s December 2022 issuance of a Certificate for the new tower site.
Throughout this contested administrative case, Cuddy & Feder’s attorneys guided the applicants through multiple evidentiary hearings, argued numerous motions, briefed legal issues, effectively cross-examined the intervenors’ witnesses and ultimately aided the agency with its duty to engage in objective fact finding and apply state statutes to a tower project critical to first responder and wireless services to the public in Connecticut.