Wednesday January 30, 2013

Towns needs more say
in permitting process

Editor of The Reformer:

Though I do not live in either of these neighborhoods, I wanted to share my take on Newfane’s Tale of Two Towers and to show some support for my community. The events of the last three months have been full of politics, wrapped in frustration, tinged with irony.

This past fall, AT&T, without public warning, signed an agreement with a property owner to place a 130-plus-foot cell tower on Parish Hill as part of AT&T’s plan to provide service in the travel corridor to Mount Snow. This tower will be in a development of 20 houses. Neighbors’ objections to this cell tower have ranged from the possibility of health risks to the probability of property devaluation. The plan, also, did not conform to town zoning laws. The Newfane Selectboard, facing an anxious, crowded room in November, was also caught off guard, as they, too, had little knowledge of this agreement since AT&T had not, yet, come before the board. Everyone soon found out that AT&T was allowed, by state law, to circumvent local zoning laws and permitting processes and go directly to the Public Service Board for needed permits. Even though alternative locations have been provided to AT&T to test and consider, it is my understanding that AT&T has submitted an application for the Parish Hill location. (In the early weeks of this situation, the Parish Hill neighborhood sent letters requesting advice and support to Windham County Senators Jeanette White and Peter Galbraith, as well as Newfane Representative Richard Marek.


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Only Senator Galbraith responded.)

Also in the fall, VTel was looking for a suitable location to site a tower in Newfane Village as part of the state initiative to provide broadband Internet service to Vermont. The Windham County Sheriff has an old communications tower in dire need of replacement. VTEL approached the sheriff and offered to provide him new communications equipment in exchange for allowing VTEL to replace the old tower with a new, 150-foot tower. Again, with the short notice, the Selectboard was behind the curve. Stress was added when the Selectboard was informed of a timeline the state needs to meet in getting this service up and running. Many concerns have been raised by the Newfane Village Trustees about the appropriateness of siting such a tower in the middle of their historic village. Newfane State Representative Richard Marek voiced his concerns and objections to this tower being sited in his neighborhood at the recent Village Trustees meeting (Jan. 14 Reformer).

Newfane is not the only town feeling frustrated with their lack of control while getting heat from the townsfolks. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is appealing to the PSB to give towns’ concerns more weight in the utilities permitting process (Jan. 16 Reformer). However, I wonder what support our state politicians can/will provide VLCT and the towns they represent toward this goal?

Lauri Miner,

Newfane, Jan. 29

Correcting the record

Editor of the Reformer:

I was moved by the article that Chris Mays wrote capturing the magical afternoon when David Gibbs, a resident at Thompson House, fulfilled his dream of playing the violin again. I am writing only to clarify some information in the story: I do not actually lead a quartet of Thompson House residents. I play in a Flute quartet with three other volunteers -- Alex Ogle, flute, Peggy Spencer, viola, and Sabine Rhyne, cello. We are all teachers at the Brattleboro Music Center. I am a member of Arcadia Players, a New England based Period Instrument Ensemble, led by the English born Director, Ian Watson.

If you are interested in learning more about this group and what they do, you can visit their website: www.arcadiaplayers.org. The Brattleboro Music Center’s website is www.bmcvt.org.

Michelle Liechti,

Brattleboro, Jan. 27

Kudos to Balint

Editor of the Reformer:

I just wanted to say how much I have been enjoying reading Becca Balint’s column over the past year. It has gotten so that I look forward to her column each week.

The most recent one on Lance Armstrong (Jan. 22) was another fine and informative piece of writing from a gifted columnist.

Louis Erlanger,

Brattleboro, Jan. 28