DERBY – Derby town officials heard more controversy Monday evening over a telecommunications tower proposed by the Vermont Electric Company (VELCO).
Derby residents Sharon and Mark Tarbox, who live near Derby’s antenna farm at 3557 Nelson Hill Road, expressed concerns about possible health effects from the large tower VELCO wants to install. VELCO officials say the tower will emit a very low amount of emissions, but some residents are concerned over the cumulative emissions from VELCO and other towers as well as from undetermined transmitters that would be put on the tower in the future.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the enforcement entity for telecommunications towers and if the cumulative emissions are too high, each entity with a tower would be forced to reduce the amount being emitted.
Holland resident Bob Cooper, who also lives near the site, challenged VELCO’s attorney Kane Smart about the procedure and VELCO’s plans. Cooper came to the meeting with piles of documents and cited different municipal, state and federal laws and newspaper articles. He pressed the selectboard to force VELCO to give the town more time to look into the issue. Cooper argued the importance of proper notification and procedures to ensure public input. He asked if the FCC was even aware of transmitters on the Derby site and said he was looking into it.
"What else will be colocating there?" Cooper asked, referring to the project as a Trojan Horse.
The selectboard finally agreed to ask VELCO to hold off submitting its application for a Public Service Board (PSB) Certificate of Public Good until September 1. VELCO representatives are asking the town to officially recommend the application to the PSB but residents want more information before any recommendation is made.
The town does not have the power to slow down the application process, and if VELCO wants to apply to the PSB sooner, it is free to do so.
Vermont State Statutes, Title 30, Section 248a, allows for telecommunications tower applicants to go straight to the Public Service Board for approval while bypassing all local permits and Act 250. However, the applicants must inform local officials and give residents 45 days to address questions and concerns.
Derby officials said they would like proof that there are no risks of adverse heath affects from the increase in radio emissions and they have asked for a "density study" and time to consider zoning and planning issues, hold public hearings if they deem that is necessary, and address possible Act 250 issues.
Chairman of the Selectboard Brian Smith said that more time is needed for VELCO to get “all their ducks in a row, and will allow for the Planning Commission to also get their ducks in a row.” He also said that his only concern is for the health of the people of Derby.
Cooper said later, "I was gratified to see the town taking their responsibility so strongly, to stand up to VELCO and seek more time for study and public input."