131-foot AT&T cell tower that was called 'monstrous' is online and meant to improve service to Kent

Kent residents and first responders will have improved service through AT&T's new cell tower at 93 Richards Road.

Kent residents and first responders will have improved service through AT&T's new cell tower at 93 Richards Road.

Karen Twomey

KENT — The cell tower residents feared would ruin their scenic views is now active at 93 Richards Road.

The new cell tower is about 131 feet tall and was turned on just a few weeks ago at the 6.82-acre property in Kent. The tower was installed by AT&T for the purpose of improving the area's coverage and providing residents and first responders with improved wireless service. It will also bring Band 14 spectrum — a nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside specifically for FirstNet, America’s public safety network — to the area.  

Several residents previously argued the tower's construction would negatively affect the town's home values and scenic vistas while other residents acknowledged the need for better wireless coverage in town, especially in terms of contacting emergency services.

“Northwest Connecticut has always historically been a difficult place to get connectivity to folks,” said John Erma, a Fairfield resident and president of AT&T's Atlantic Region.

Erma said the importance of connectivity was “really laid bare” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were all remote and relying on technology,” he said. “It used to be that it was a nice thing to have and now I think people are really understanding it’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity, so this tower really brings connectivity to a whole area of Connecticut that didn’t have it in the past.”

Installation objections 

AT&T (also known as Homeland Towers LLC and New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC) filed an application with the Connecticut Siting Council in February of 2020 to install a cell tower at either 93 Richards Road or 15 Bald Hill Road.

Erma said the Siting Council had AT&T look at alternative locations, parcels of land and heights for the proposed cell tower during the council’s administrative process.

The council also held several public hearings on the proposed cell tower.

The Siting Council issued its final approval to install a cell tower at 93 Richards Road in December of 2020. 

Residents responded with a call for the court to reverse the council’s approval, and two organizations – a nonprofit called The Planned Development Alliance of Northwest Connecticut and the homeowners group Spectacle Ridge Association – filed an appeal in January 2021 at the Judicial District Court in New Britain.

A Spectacle Ridge member also started a Change.org petition to stop AT&T from “building a monstrous cell tower in the Kent Hills," which has since gathered more than 1,500 signatures.

The two organizations argued AT&T should have looked into alternatives for providing improved coverage to the area without damaging the town's scenic vistas, such as installing an array of small cell antennas instead of a cell tower.

The organizations also said the Siting Council “explicitly considered the use of small cell antennas instead of a macro tower (where wireless telecommunications equipment is located) but rejected the idea” because they said antennas wouldn’t provide the same signal coverage that a cell tower could provide. 

Appeal denial

The Judicial District determined the two organizations failed to establish on appeal that, among other things, the Siting Council’s final decision was “made upon unlawful procedure.” The court dismissed the appeal in October of 2021.

“The court looked at the facts and denied the appeal, which gave us the right to go ahead and start construction and turn on the service,” Erma said.