Michael and Marilyn Gardner’s application for a certificate of public good to erect a windmill and cell phone tower combination on their property has been denied by the Vermont Public Service Board. The board denied the request because of lack of approvals for the telecommunications tower.
However, the Gardner’s can reapply, thanks in part to a change in state regulations. The project will involve 130-foot windmill to power the Mann Hill Road farm and 110-foot cell phone antennas will use the same structure.
The proposed project would consist of the windmill, 12 panel antennas to provide cell phone service, and an equipment shelter to house a diesel generator. A 300-foot access road would be constructed and telephone and electrical lines to the facility would be buried.
A power generated by the windmill would power the Gardner’s farm, and excess electricity would go to the electricity grid. The electricity sent to the grid would result in credit to the Gardner’s account.
The antennas would be attached to the base of the windmill and stand beneath the blades.
The debate on the Public Service Board centered on whether or not the project is considered a single project or two separate projects. At the time the application was submitted, the Public Service Board could not issue certificates for telecommunications but could issue net-metering permits.
“This issue arises because the applicants have filed a request that includes not simply a net-metering wind turbine, but also significant additional facilities and construction that would not normally be included in such a project,” states the Public Service Board’s decision.
“For example, when reviewing a substation, we would typically examine the access road constructed to service that substation, since it is essential to provide access and would only be built due to the construction of the substation. By contrast, the telecommunications facilities proposed here, including antennae, a building, and an access road, bear no relationship to the electrical facilities other than co-location.”
Verizon contended that it is more efficient for the board to approve the project as a whole rather than seeking two separate approvals. The Department of Public Service agreed.
Zoning Administrator Nelson Brownell commented that the projects provide different services and can not be considered one.
As of June 9, Act 79 was passed by the Legislature, allowing the Public Service Board to approve telecommunication towers on electrical transmission and generation facilities. To re-apply, the Gardners would have to provide additional information regarding the cell phone tower.
On Thursday, the Pownal Select Board was invited to a meeting with the Development Review Board and the Planning Commission to discuss the project. The meeting will be held on Sept. 18 at the Pownal Valley Fire Department on North Pownal Road at 6 p.m.
By Andy McKeever
14 September 2007
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