Thursday February 7, 2013

Use for River Garden? How’s about ...

Editor of the Reformer:

Perhaps the ideal new use for the River Garden is as a Student Center for the new VT community College/VT Technical College downtown campus. It would be an attractive spacious gathering place for students to meet with each other and congregate between classes, similar to Student Centers at other colleges. Quite likely Brattleboro could retain an option to continue to use the space for community events such as Winter Farmer’s Market, community Thanksgiving meal, art shows, rehearsals, etc. It could provide a common ground where both students and townspeople could gather and meet each other.

The problem with this plan, I understand, is one of timing. The college may not be up and running for a couple of years. BABB wants to be done tending the River Garden this summer. Surely, though, after investing hundreds of thousands of public dollars and over a decade of oversight, a way could be found to keep the River Garden in public trust until the college is ready to proudly enjoy it as a centerpiece to the fine downtown campus.

Walter Slowinski,

Brattleboro, Feb. 4

Marek discusses Newfane cell tower issue

Editor of the Reformer:

A recent letter argued persuasively that more local input is needed in determining the location of transmission towers such as the two proposed for Newfane. In its effort to help see that all Vermonters have high speed service by the end of the year the current law fails to involve communities early enough in the process and gives the Public Service Board (PSB) too little discretion to respond to local objections or alternatives. Fixing that will require more statutory changes, which I support.

The writer also understandably questioned why I intervened in the Newfane Village proposal but did not do so in the one in Williamsville. The basic reason is that one was the subject of an active application before the PSB while the other was not. The PSB’s members are appointed through our Judicial Nominating Board and the governor and they carry out quasi-judicial duties. As the Vermont House effectively decided on a different high profile matter last year, once a docket is open before the PSB it is inappropriate for legislators to intervene because of the separation of powers doctrine.

That was the case with the Williamsville application, so I did not do so. In talking about the matter with several Selectboard members and following the news reports, however, I believe that they have vigorously raised every possible argument with both the company and the PSB to try to get a better site considered.

The possibility of placing a tower on the Newfane Common fortunately had not yet been finalized or filed with the PSB. Newfane Village also is a separate municipality in which I am a Trustee with the same elected role as a Select Board member has for a town. It was in that capacity that I asked to meet with the side judges who control the county property, including the Common, and with the sheriff.

I explained to them that there were two reasons why I believed a site on the Common could neither be approved under the law by the PSB if filed for, nor could it actually be allowed by the side judges. First, the PSB is directed by the current law not to approve applications for locations in historic sites or scenic locations. As the center of a National Historic District as well as an obviously scenic location, the Newfane Common clearly would fail both PSB tests. Second, a long standing deed restriction governing the Common prohibits any uses there such as a commercial VTel tower.

Because we all agree that high speed service is critical to our residents and that the sheriff needs effective communication with his deputies, I also told them that I would try to suggest an appropriate site before any PSB filing. Since then I have forwarded four possible locations and know of at least one other which is under review. Although all four of the ones I suggested likely would result in a tower visible from my own house, all of them are outside the Historic District and would greatly reduce scenic impact on the community. 

Rep. Richard Marek,

House District Windham-5, Feb. 4