A monopole vs the scaffold type powerline structure. United Illuminating

If the state’s Siting Council enables the United Illuminating Company to erect 95-145 foot tall monopoles across Fairfield, all of Connecticut stands to lose. 

While having these enormous utility poles swath Fairfield and the visual impact these poles will have throughout our beautiful town deeply concerns me, what keeps me up at night is the irreparable harm these monopoles will have on Southport — one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. These massive monopoles will loom over Southport for centuries to come, an anathema to Southport’s historic aesthetic and a symbol of our failure to save our past.

When I studied land use law at the New York University School of Law, I learned about the genesis of the historic preservation movement: the destruction of the magnificent, nine-acre travertine and granite Pennsylvania Station. The revelation that Penn Station had at one time been “one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance” was shocking to me.

I grew up in northern New Jersey, where our trains delivered us into the heart of a dark, dingy underground labyrinth of cheap, new-age materials, and I envied the grandiose beauty of Grand Central Station. Discovering that Penn Station had at one point been a “masterpiece” of Beaux-Arts style and that so many generations had been robbed of this masterpiece, was formative for me. It helped me to appreciate the intangible value of historic structures and aesthetics, and the duty we have to preserve the past as best we can while balancing the needs of future progress; because often, our present needs cloud what ultimately is in our long-term interests.

The decision whether to allow UI to desecrate Southport with these towering, unsightly poles marks an inflection point for Connecticut: Will we protect our past against our sometimes clouded (and misguided) consideration of our present interests and needs? Like many of the picturesque, quaint towns dotting Connecticut, Southport is just special. You cannot put a price or value on how special, but it is clear to me that preserving Southport’s uniquely beautiful aesthetic saves an important historical asset for Connecticut. Likewise, sitting idly by as one of Connecticut’s great historical assets is marred opens the door to destroying other towns across Connecticut in a similar way.

Let’s not let a blind and unthinking march towards progress rob us of some of our greatest assets. The New York Times’s words in its 1963 “Farewell to Penn Station” are an eerily apt warning for us today: “. . . we will . . . be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” 

Connecticut, we need to learn from the past and save Southport. It is a treasure for our state. Please write to the Siting Council at siting.council@ct.gov and stop this tragedy from occurring.

Jill Vergara is a Fairfield RTM Representative, District 7.