WILTON — Despite strenuous criticism from residents about locating a cell tower on Hammond Road, the Planning Board approved it Thursday night.

The 250-foot U.S. Cellular tower is being installed by Black Diamond Consultants of Gardiner on land owned by Dennis Farrington. The tower will be in a farm and forest zone and will be accessed by a 600-foot driveway constructed from Hammond Road.

Construction is expected to take four to six weeks and will begin later this summer. The tower will have a flashing light to alert aircraft.

Abutter Michael Leary said he supported the tower, but was upset with surveyors coming on his land three times this year without his permission. 

“It upsets me that they felt the need to trespass without giving me notice,” he said.

Leary was also concerned about construction vehicles blocking the road during the project. He said it is difficult to get in and out because the road is narrow. He suggested the Planning Board put in a condition where the vehicles would be required to park off the road.

Leary also wanted blasting to be avoided if possible, because he has a custom-built log home. He was concerned about the blasting cracking his foundation and seals in the house.

Additionally, Leary said he is trying to sell the property.

“I’ve had no showings since this was announced,” he said. “It’s a perception problem.”

Abutter Travis Grindle asked if U.S. Cellular had sought alternative sites.

Jim Hebert, representing Black Diamond Consultants, said U.S. Cellular had identified a search ring and asked landowners if they wanted to lease land for a tower.

“The reason they picked that location is they can connect to four different antennas, and it is an ideal location,” he said.

Janice Vining, who lives near where the tower will be situated, said, “I never found out a thing about this until a landowner mentioned it to me.”

She said it will negatively affect property values, and she is worried about possible health risks from the antenna’s signal.

Residents were also concerned about the impact of construction equipment on the road.

Hebert mentioned that it’s not unusual for planning boards to put in a condition saying that a road will be returned to its original condition or better once a project is finished.

As for potential health risks, Hebert said cell companies have guidelines for municipalities. The established criteria state that a tower with an antenna more than 33 feet above the ground, such as the Hammond Road site, do not pose a health risk.

“From the federal government, this tower is not going to provide harmful effects to your children, even if they are living at the site,” he said.

Planning Board Chairman Michael Sherrod defended the work the board had done on the project, saying notices have been put in the newspaper and the site visit was advertised.

“I feel like this board did due diligence by providing notice,” he said.

Sherrod also took exception to residents saying that the Planning Board was just providing a “rubber stamp” for the project.

“All we can do is apply the law,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a done deal. But, there’s only so much we can do.”

The Planning Board gave the go-ahead for the project with the following conditions:

* The developer will return the section of Hammond Road being used to access the site to a condition that is equal to or better than the original condition or the found condition.

* The developer will make every effort to complete the project without blasting. If blasting is required, the firm doing the blasting will identify all nearby property owners and will provide a pre-blast home inspection for all parties at the blasters’ expense. 

* Construction vehicles must be parked in a manner to allow continued access to Hammond Road.

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