Selectmen push for possible Ledges cell site

Conservation Commission will take up question tonight.

In the wake for a third storm that left much of northern Ridgefield acutely aware of it’s lack of reliable cell phone service, the selectmen are trying to push a potential for a cell tower site back into a revived purchase of 28 acres off Ledges Road as open space.

Bitter neighborhood opposition killed a proposed purchase of the same land for combined cell tower and open space purposes back in 2011.

At a special meeting Monday morning, Nov. 19, the selectmen scheduled the Conservation Commission’s proposed purchase of the 28 acres off Ledges Road for a public hearing and town meeting.


But they told Ben Oko to return to tonight’s Conservation Commission meeting and ask members to agree that the purchase proposal would be advanced to town meeting with an understanding the selectmen might come back and ask to buy an acre or less at the top of the steeply rising property for a cell tower site.

The renegotiated purchase put forward by the Conservation Commission last week was intended as open space, and has a $825,000 price which the Conservation Commission can cover from it’s Open Space Conservation Fund.

The price was $1 million in 2011 when neighborhood opposition to a cell tower sank a proposed joint purchase of the same 28-acre tract by the Conservation Commission and the selectmen.

The 2011 deal was meant to serve the dual purpose of adding open to the town’s open space while providing a site for a cell tower site that cell phone company engineers say would greatly improve cell phone communication in northern Ridgefield, where many areas have little or no cell service.

The Conservation Commission’s new deal was not put together with a cell tower site in mind. But Dr. Oko told the selectmen, there is no provision dictating open space use in the contracts signed by the private sellers.

However, the money the Conservation Commission planned to use to buy the property come from private fund raising done for the expressed purpose of buy open space land — not land for cell towers.

The Conservation Commission would be leery of having it’s new proposal tied up with a cell plan, Dr. Oko told the selectmen Monday morning.

“We supported it at the time,” he said of the dual-purpose deal in 2011. “We got a lot of heat for it.”

Mr. Marconi said things had changed.

“Since then, we’ve had another catastrophic storm,” he said.

The public hearing on the proposed purchase was scheduled the week after Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 in the town hall’s lower level conference room.

The town meeting was scheduled two weeks after that, on Wednesday, Dec. 12, also at 7:30 in town hall.

Mr. Marconi said the hearing and/or meeting might be moved to a bigger venue if it appears  large numbers of people plan to attend.

The vote was 2-to-1, with Mr. Marconi and Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark in favor, and Selectman Andy Bodner opposed.

Mr. Bodner did not want to call a public hearing until after the selectmen had assurances the cell tower site would be possible on the property.

“This is our one bite at the apple,” he said.

Mr. Marconi felt it made sense to goa head with the hearing.

“It may be a good forum to have this debate,” he said.

Either way, a purchase will go through only if it is approved by voters, and its conditions will be dictated by what they approve.

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  • nbits

    The lack of cell service in Northern Ridgefield is a public safety issue and I fully support the cell tower proposal. If a looter broke into my home, which was w/out phone/internet svc for 12 days, I would’ve had NO WAY to contact the outside world.

    Apart from that, has anyone tried making a call from Scotts Ridge or the High School? Guess what, if there’s a catastrophe at either of these schools (which my kids attend), no child would be able to contact a parent via cell phone-its completely unacceptable.

    Its time to stop whining about what a cell tower would look like and its effect on property values-is someone suggesting that a lack of cell service INCREASES property values?

  • Kirk

    If all is as you claim (and land line ATT and Cable aren’t good enuf for you) then contact a cell company and get them to install one … but … don’t ask your fellow taxpayers to subsidize you or urge the town to be in the cell tower business … that was exactly the looney idea that was defeated.

  • jon elkow

    I had the most trouble with cell phone service during the storm in town when everything sort of died.
    If this is such a critical public safety issue, why can’t we put the tower right on the school property, or on the old McKeon property adjacent to the chicken coop? There is ample public property for a tower. This fiction that it can’t be allowed on Conservation Commission land is just that, fiction. How can they agree to let it be put on land they ‘would have’ bought?
    Admitting to advanced years, I have, over time, been in an awful lot of places with no cell phone service and the world hasn’t ended yet.
    And if a looter broke into my home, I’d be out of luck – my cell phone would not be in my jammies and it’d be turned off!

  • CMcQuilken

    I think this is completely wrong. Last year the proposal was put before the voters to purchase the Ledges land and install a cell tower. It was overwhelmingly defeated. If I remember, 90% of the people at the Town Meeting voted no. Now a year later we have to get all those people to come out and defend their property rights again? This just isn’t right in my view.

    Should there be cell service? Yes. But not on Ledges. There was another site mentioned on the NY boundary. Unlike the Ledges site, no one lives over there. Maybe that’s a good location. Or put a tower way into the woods by Pine Mountain or Windwing. Again, no one lives there.

    But the idea of putting up a tower next to people’s homes was already voted on and defeated. That should be the end of it. I don’t think it is fair to keep bringing the idea back until it passes. Democracy is not suppose to work that way.

  • rdg-oldtimer

    Enough with playing the “child ” card. That’s just plain old!——- If someone breaks into my house, I will be using my 357 S & W, not a cell phone.—–Kirk said it right. Have ATT or ??? build a tower on town land. If the elevation is not high enough, make it taller.

  • Susan

    Here is a thought…get a cordled phone and plug it in. If you do not have power it will still work! Chatting or emergencies! Get AT&T I have no problems with this service in the Ridgebury Area. I can make and receive calls at SRMS.

    Furthermore…didn’t Rudy get the message. Residents do not want a cell tower on Ledges property. Also his big concern was a phone at the HS – to my knowledge a land line was never installed there. So how concerned is he??

    • nbits

      Gee Susan, do you work for the phone company? I hope not. Because guess what? WE HAVE A CORDED PHONE AND IT DIDN’T WORK EITHER. And I’m sure you, and everyone else who is vs. a cell twr enjoy cell service at your homes; its patently absurd that the town shouldn’t be involved in getting this done, and smacks of NIMBY or worse, people who are against it for the sake of being against it.

      Moreover, this isn’t just about a storm problem, we’ve had break-ins over here on the NYS line in Ridgefield in case you haven’t been reading. Does anyone believe that an experienced thief isn’t adept enough to cut a phone line? WAKE UP.

      I’m not going to just sit around and wait for something bad to happen to placate a bunch of people who aren’t adversely affected by this problem.

  • George

    At our office in Westchester, we did not get good Verizon signal in the interior conference rooms. So we ordered this mini tower for $250 and installed it, and now people with Verizon don’t have dropped calls in the interior rooms. The mini tower hooks into the high speed internet.

    You can have the phone service open to the public or closed (which means you input a list of up to 50 phone numbers and only those numbers can use it). However, even in closed systems, anyone can use it to make a 911 call.

    Why doesn’t the high school spend the $250 (or maybe a bit more as that’s a big facility), and then restrict the mini tower to just certain staff members. However, any student could still use it to make a 911 call. This would be a temporary fix to the public safety issue that everyone talks about, until a more permanent solution could be found.

    Does the school really want cell service? Or are they just as happy that kids aren’t texting and twittering?

  • rdg-oldtimer

    My personal thoughts are that people just want the latest electronic “stuff” available and as long as a tower is not in their backyard, they are not concerned about others. IMO

  • MCO

    Guess what? When the power goes out, so do the cell towers. They use electricity too you know.

    We already voted on this. NO CELL TOWER!!!!

  • fedupwithrudy

    This article for real? What “things have changed”? The most pathetic thing about this deal is Marconi bringing back a cell tower vote and using the Excuse “we did not have cell service because of the storm” NO ONE had cell service. Marconi, have you read the newspaper. Here’s 2 articles on the cell service outside this area…
    Is Marconi for real? NJ, NY, CT, not just in our little town, did not have cell service. You’ve got to be kidding me.

  • fedupwithrudy

    What a mess Rudy Marconi is making of this town. Cell towers, low incoming housing, people are speaking against them but Marconi is not listening. We need representatives who will work for us not against us, or in this case for themselves. What’s more, how can someone like Ben Oko a “Conservationist” agree to putting up a cell tower on Open Space – really? What would his fellow conservationist around the globe think? What are the real motives here – for Marconi and Oko? It’s Not safety. There are several other options that no one is listening to or investigating, which would cost far less than this deal, and as far as the revenue being generated, this tower will not generate more than $5k a month, Marconi/Oko please prove differently…where is the proposal on what revenue will be generated? What is the reality, not the dream – 2 cell companies? And, why is Marconi and Oko agreeing to over pay for this land? Maybe years ago when this deal started the land was worth over $800k, but today? I doubt it. I know my real estate has depreciated…how about yours? Why hasn’t this land depreciated also? After all this time Over $800k…really? The people on this town have already voted NO, yes Voted not stated, doesn’t that mean anything? Yet Marconi and Oko continue to try and make this deal happen. Why? At last, if he can redo our election can we redo Marconi election and keeping voting until Marconi is out of office. Then we’ll have a first selectman who listens to us and in turn can appoint a real Conservationist, who knows what the word means.

  • fedupwithrudy

    One thought….after a storm why do you think This cell tower would work when no others did? This cell tower will not be magical, it will not work like all the others…using this argument to raising a cell tower is not a valid reason…it work won’t here either. Too bad Marconi can’t think of a real reason to put up this cell tower.

  • Susan

    Nbits…I do live in northern ridgefield…had perfect service with AT&T mobile. Maybe you should consider switching carriers. If you are concerned for “safety” with breakins..are you going to wait for a cell tower to be approved , built and en activated???

  • King Crab

    They want to justify buying the property. We voted that issue and the cell tower down in 2011. There should be a huge turn out at the Wednesday night meeting to show the BOS ( and I hope the Conservation Committee) that nothing has changed.

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