DERBY- The Vermont Electric Company (VELCO) submitted on Sept. 16 an application with the Public Service Board (PSB) to erect a telecommunications tower on Nelson Hill Road in Derby. The application was submitted under VSA 248a, which allows telecommunications towers to go directly to the PSB for approval while bypassing local zoning as well as Act 250 laws. The 21-day public comment period with the PSB is underway.
VELCO sought a recommendation from town officials hoping it would be positive. VELCO attorneys attended eight Derby planning and/or selectboard meetings. The selectboard had asked the planning commission for guidance as the applicant must be inline with the Town Plan and Bylaw. However, commission members felt they were not qualified to make a recommendation. The planning commission decided to table the request indefinitely.
The Derby select board made a motion Monday evening to send a letter to the PSB, as part of it's public comment period, stating its support of the purposed tower on Nelson Hill Road. However, the letter makes a request for a long-term power density study, measuring all emissions, conducted by an independent firm prior to the PSB approving the VELCO proposal.
Derby Select Board Chairman Brian Smith noted that he wants to send a letter with the board’s opinion stating that the application is under review and he wants the board to have some influence.
Select board members Laura Dolgin, Beula-Jean Shattuck, Steve Gendreau and Smith all said yes on the motion to send the letter. Board member Karen Jenne said no.
Smith presented different letters that could be submitted to the PSB, some of which requested a 14-day power density study. The 14-day suggestion was just randomly pulled out of the air by Town Planner Dave LaBelle at a recent meeting, which Smith agreed with at the time.
Dolgin questioned the 14-day period and if those who supported it were qualified to do so. Smith agreed that he wasn’t qualified. The length of time will be left of to the PSB.
This did not please Holland resident Bob Cooper, who has spoken out strongly at select board and planning commission meetings. Cooper wants a long-term power density study conducted by an independent firm of at least 30 to 60 days, during the time of year when the leaves are off the trees. Cooper pressed the board to set the minimum time frame.
Dolgin did not appreciate Cooper’s continuous comments while the board was discussing the situation. She said that the town was extending him a courtesy to let him speak at the Derby meetings. “You have badgered us ad nauseam,” she said.
Cooper reminded everyone that, even though he lives in Holland, he is an interested party in the project as an abutter.
Cooper again listed his complaints with VELCO’s proposal and pressed to know why an official public hearing on the matter was not held. He criticized the application and the three-and-a-half-hour density study VELCO conducted recently. He called it deficient.
He also accused VELCO of not having an FCC permint for the project. VELCO’s attorney Will Dodge quickly pointed out a copy of the FCC permit to the select board. Dodge noted that VELCO did not yet have a "structural permit" from the FCC as it is not required at the current time in the process.
Dodge and selectmen Smith, Dolgin, and Shattuck reminded Cooper and Derby residents Mark and Sharon Tarbox that they could submit their concerns to the PSB. The Tarboxes stated their health concerns and seemed very upset that an official public hearing was never held on the issue despite several requests.
Dolgin said that a public hearing was not required on the issue.
Jenne is submitting a letter with a dissenting opinion to the PSB and she read the letter Monday evening and invited select board members to sign it. She said that the health and safety concerns of Derby residents had not been fully addressed and she noted that independent studies have not taken place as requested.
She is concerned about future "co-locators," undisclosed and perhaps even unknown individuals or companies who may rent tower space from VELCO in the future, even though VELCO said there are none currently. She questioned why VELCO cannot co-locate on an existing tower when there is a sufficient place available. Jenne also brought up concerns that an official, warned, public hearing on the matter never took place.