Derby Won’t Meet VELCO Deadline for PSB Recommendation

DERBY - Brian Smith, Chairman of the Derby Select Board, said the board is not going to issue a recommendation on behalf of the Vermont Electric Company (VELCO) to the Public Service Board (PSB) by Sept. 1. VELCO had agreed to postpone submitting their application for a Certificate of Public Good to the PSB at the request of town officials.However, Smith said he is considering a discussion with each member of the select board in an open meeting and then sending comments to the PSB during the comment period following the filing by VELCO. Smith said he agrees with the Derby Planning Commission's suggestion of supporting the tower but asking for a 14-day power density study.“Governor [Peter] Shumlin said it’s necessary, and I agree. I think it is important for communication,” Smith said in an interview following the select board meeting Monday evening.During the meeting, VELCO attorney William Dodge of Downs Rachlin and Martin was present along with VELCO Senior Project Engineer Peter Lind. Dodge and Lind sat together through the select board meeting, however VELCO was once again not on the agenda.After going through the agenda items, Smith asked “Any other businesses?” Approximately three seconds passed and no one, including the VELCO officials, said anything, and Smith moved to adjourn, which was quickly seconded.VELCO officials have been attending every select board and Derby Planning Commission meeting for the last several weeks hoping the town officials will issue a positive recommendation to the PSB to show support for the telecommunication tower they want to build on Nelson Hill in Derby. They currently have an 58-foot tower located on Nelson Hill and want to replace it with a 115-foot tower to allow for communication between utility companies and possibly emergency personnel. The new tower is part of a statewide project.VELCO is going through Act 30 Section 248a, which allows telecommunication applicants to go straight to the PSB and avoid having to go through Act 250 or local zoning.The proposal for the tower has caused some concerns from Derby residents and for a Holland resident, Bob Cooper, who attends every meeting to challenge VELCO officials and to urge town officials to not make a positive recommendation without a long-term power density study to measure emissions.Cooper argues jurisdictional issues and, along with a couple of Derby residents, raises health concerns. Cooper also has publicly criticized the Derby Zoning Administrator Bob Kelley and went as far as to accuse him of not doing his job.In a public meeting, Cooper said that Kelley failed to respond to the VELCO application for 55 days. Kelley said that most people do not understand his job and duties. Kelley receives all mail, and when he received the information from VELCO he immediately turned it over the Planning Commission, as his job requires. He was also criticized by Cooper for not putting VELCO on the agenda. However the Planning Commission sets the agenda.Cooper also said that Kelley does not administer zoning. Kelley said that the VELCO application falls under 248a and local zoning does not apply.The VELCO tower must comply with the town’s by-law and town plan. Kelley enforces the bylaw if, after construction, there is a violation. Kelley said he is unaware of any existing violations and has seen no evidence of violations, as the current towers on Nelson Hill were built before his time as Derby Zoning Administrator.Derby has a 15-year statute of limitations on local zoning. If the towers were built within 15 years, Kelley would then take necessary action if there is in fact a viloation.