VELCO Seeks Recommendation from Derby Planning Commission for Tower

DERBY – The Derby Planning Commission is currently dealing with a proposed Public Service Board (PSB) application for the Vermont Electric Company (VELCO) to put a radio transmission tower on the property of Jim and Debbie Brown in Derby.Once the application goes before the PSB, the PSB has sole jurisdiction over the project under 30 VSA Sec. 248A and VELCO does not need a zoning permit or any other municipal or state permit. Until then, the project may be subject to Derby bylaws for conditional use and site plan review.Once the application is accepted, PSB does seek input from the town. VELCO approached the planning commission with a request to make a recommendation to the PSB in support of the project. VELCO’s lawyers showed up with a drafted recommendation in hand.At Monday night’s planning commission meeting, Mark and Sharon Tarbox objected to proceeding with the recommendation without further input and information. They expressed concern over aesthetics and health issues.After a meeting which ran over two hours, the commission decided to wait on the recommendation until a comprehensive “density” study could be done to determine the amount of radio wave emitted from the tower in addition to other towers in the area. The tower is part of a statewide radio project. The current 58 foot tower will be replaced with a 115 foot tower and will connect with other towers in surrounding towns. The FCC is requiring that the towers be changed to narrow banding frequency. The tower will allow utility companies to communicate among themselves.The FCC establishes what the safe limits are for radio frequency emissions. VELCO’s tower is 4.8 percent of the safety limit that the FCC has established, or one-twentieth of the level the FCC determines creates some risk, according to the applicants. The FCC is the enforcement entity, the compliance entity, and the rule making entity for the telecommunications tower.Attorney for VELCO, Kane Smart of Downs Rachlin and Martin, said that VELCO’s project is well below the threshold for safety concerns.There are other towers located at the same site of 3557 Nelson Hill Road, and concerns over the cumulative radio frequency emissions were raised at the Derby Planning Commission’s meeting Monday evening. According to Mark Tarbox, the planning commission said it will not make a recommendation to the PSB without the study. VELCO attorneys reluctantly agreed to a study, said Tarbox. VELCO has offered to perform a field study on the area to determine the cumulative radio frequency emissions, but they are not required to do so, according to Smart. Tarbox said he wants an independent study.The Tarboxes had requested that Zoning Administrator Bob Kelley issue a jurisdictional opinion as to whether or not a zoning permit is required. Kelley said at the meeting that, in his opinion, the permit was not required, which allows the commission to go forward with its recommendation.As part of section 248A, the legislature set forth the advanced notice period of 45 days where the applicant notifies the municipality and the adjoining land owners and discusses concerns. The applicant hopes and expects that the municipality will give a positive recommendation to the PSB, Smart said.Once the 45 days are up, the applicant seeks a Certificate of Public Good. This matter may be brought up before the Derby Select Board meeting of Monday, July 25.