As you may be aware, the Shelburne Planning Commission, among its codified municipal duties, has been scheduling and listening to a number of local residents who feel their property values and visual aesthetics are being threatened by Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) approved placement of cell phone towers in their residential and rural neighborhoods. More recently the PSB issued a Certificate of Public Good for a 150 kW solar array for which the net metering benefit will accrue to The Lodge at Shelburne Bay, and which will be located adjacent to the employee parking area of the manufacturing firm of Vermont Teddy Bear, but alas, directly in the Camel’s Hump view-shed of a portion of Ridgefield Estates.
In spite of timely and authorized actions…in objection…taken by this Commission, the Town Manager’s Office, and Town Counsel, it is not apparent that anything so far presented has so much as slowed the PSB’s process of authorizing these and similar projects.
We note with interest that the enabling legislation originally establishing the PSB envisioned a quasi-judicial board that would supervise rates, quality of service, and overall financial management of Vermont’s Public Utilities. Said another way, a board that would ensure the provision of high quality public utility services at minimum reasonable costs. Just how we’ve come to observe the PSB’s adoption of “new technologies” in a fashion that ignores any municipal voice, ignores financial damages to property owners affected by their decisions, and ignores state traditions and the wisdom of past state legislators is most unfortunate.
Vermont has always been a successful tourism and vacation destination. In fact today, the revenues generated by its seasonal “guests” constitute one of the larger contributions to state GDP. Recognizing the value of its unique natural beauty, Vermont’s legislature, in 1968, became the 3rd state in the union to outlaw billboards and severely restrict state highway signing. That wisdom continues today…although it is now forced to compete with pastures of solar arrays, and Green Mountain ridgeline wind turbine farms, all recipients of Certificates of Public Good. It is apparent to the Planning Commission that Vermont’s PSB is far to insulated from public opinion, and either unable or unwilling to accommodate the very real concerns of the Shelburne property owners they are expected to serve as well. It is important to note that we – in no way – seek to challenge the value of the technology the PSB wishes to advance. Our strong objections remain focused upon the view-sheds, property values, and rural culture that is being wantonly and unnecessarily sacrificed by the existing process.
We urge you, as our elected officials, to take an active legislative role in correcting this unfortunate situation.
Shelburne Planning Commission: Kate Lalley (Chair), Ron Bouchard (Vice Chair), Mark Brooks, Dan Burks, Dick Elkins, Jaime Heins, and Ann Hogan.
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