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VELCO to ask planning group for tower support

Representatives of a utility company will ask a regional planning commision tonight to support its statewide radio project. Vermont Electric Power Supply, Inc. or VELCO’s initiative includes installing broadband and microwave antennas on 36 to 40 mountaintop sites throughout Vermont, including a controversial location in Wells.

The Rutland Regional Planning Commission will hear the proposal at the meeting which starts at 5 p.m.

William Dodge, an attorney representing VELCO and partner Vermont Transco, LLC., said the commission asked the company to attend the meeting to explain its statewide project.

According to Vermont statute Act 248, companies looking to install new electric facilities in the state must get a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board. Local and regional planning commissions are expected to weigh in on the proposal before the company gets the certificate.

The approval process includes getting recommendations from municipal and regional planning commissions, municipal legislative bodies and the company must conform to the land conservation measures contained in the town plan of the affected town.

The company has 45 days to notify the town and regional commissions before applying for the certificate, according to the law.

The project must also not have an adverse effect on public health and safety, something a Wells couple is fighting in court.

The tower is to be sited within a 24-by-24-foot easement on Northeast Mountain, inside a 10-acre property owned by Sergei Kniazev and Olga Julinska. The couple filed a civil lawsuit in Rutland Superior Court in August, claiming the company is violating the boundaries of the easement. The couple also claim that the telecommunications project will affect their quality of life because radio frequency emissions, or electromagnetic radiation, will be coming from the tower, located 60 feet from their home.

Dodge said the company is not required to amend the permit on the easement, which VELCO intends to buy if it gets permitting for the tower installations.

Dodge also said he would not get into a “strategic discussion” on why VELCO decided to bypass the Act 250 process for environmental impact projects.

“We think it (Act 248) is a good law, a smart law and has specific timelines for approvals and rejections,” Dodge said.

Annette Smith of Danby, chair of the RRPC’s Energy Committee, visited the Wells property and a recent Wells Planning Commission meeting on behalf of the family.

Smith said VELCO’s appearance at the commission meeting tonight is for the company to get information to improve their application but according to Smith, that didn’t seem to be the case.

“This is supposed to give the applicant an opportunity to address local concerns,” Smith said Monday. “This is for the benefit of VELCO and they pretty clearly aren’t listening.”

The commission meeting begins at 5 p.m. with a review of Act 250 applications and VELCO’s presentation.

The meeting is on the third floor of Rutland’s Opera House at 67 Merchants Row.

At 6 p.m., the RRPC board will meet with the Rutland Economic Development Corp. board to discuss ongoing initiatives and collaborations.

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