Air Park Road telecommunications tower not welcome

Currently, the Public Service Board [PSB] is considering approval of VTel’s application for a Certificate of Public Good for the installation of a 75-foot telecommunications tower on a two-acre residential lot at Air Park Road in Shelburne. If this site is approved by the PSB, we feel this sets an unwise precedent for future proposed construction of towers in residential neighborhoods in our town and throughout Vermont. Initial research on past PSB orders to date approving free standing towers of limited size and scope (less than 140” tall) include no sites in residential neighborhoods outside of a municipal facility.

The tower location is not in keeping with our town plan goals for the rural district. Our town plan goal states under the fifth objective to “strongly encourage land uses in the rural area that are resource based (such as forestry, agriculture, and horticulture) and that are comprised of small scale economic units that conserve the rural landscape. Uses shall be compatible with the scale and nature of the rural area.” Under Economic Development as to activities by business and non-residential enterprise, “the town will continue to work to achieve a balance between economic and other interests by clearly identifying places where different types of activities are appropriate and/or inappropriate.”

Shelburne’s Ordinance for Towers and Telecommunications Facilities is a regulatory document that, in Article I, states as its purpose to “… Preserve the character and appearance of the Town of Shelburne… Protect… environmental, visual, and natural or human resources… Preserve property values, Locate towers…in a manner which promotes the general safety… of the citizens of Shelburne, and require the use of existing structures where possible”. Specifically, under Article VII, Project Review Criteria H (5.) states “the telecommunications facility shall be located in the following districts designated in the Shelburne Zoning Bylaws… commercial-industrial and commercial-industrial south”.

The word “industrial” is critical here. Unfortunately, the present site is in the rural district and the current eroded, unpaved, and steep grade of Air Park Road makes it unsuitable as an access road to a utility tower. We feel the tower will be detrimental to the aesthetics of our neighborhood as well as the view corridor from Route 7.  No mitigation efforts can change the inappropriate context of its placement; an alternate site needs to be more diligently pursued by the Town and VTel.

In our view, locating a free standing telecommunications tower on a residential lot in the rural district is not appropriate land use given the goals stated above. Unfortunately, Vermont state legislation 30 V.S.A. 248a  pre-empts, exempts, and waives local ordinance and zoning requirements which were designed in deference to and to implement the goals of our town plan. It is our opinion that this creates undue additional development pressure on sensitive rural and residential areas in our community as well as creating the potential for a divisive atmosphere between neighbors. For more information on the tower siting process and legislation check out the Vermont Statutes and the Vermont Public Service Board Orders online.

Grant Urie and Hope Johnson, Neighbors at Air Park Road, Shelburne

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