By Lisa Loomis

Fayston Select Board issued a letter to the Vermont Public Service Board opposing a proposed broadband tower for Bragg Hill.

On December 24, the town and abutters to property owned by Katherine Westhelle on High Country Road in Fayston received notification of plans by VTel to apply for permits to construct a 90-foot tower on Westhelle's lot. The land is part of a seven-lot subdivision created by the Westhelle family in 1998.

The notice of intent to file explains the proposal to construct the 90-foot tower with nine panel antennas ranging in size from 70 feet to 82 feet above ground level and two microwave dish antennas one by two feet and one by four feet in diameter.

The select board recommended that the Vermont Public Service Board not approve the project because the proposed location is in violation of the Fayston Town Plan which states "because of the likelihood of undue adverse scenic and environmental impacts to higher elevation lands, all new energy and telecommunications facilities – including residential wind towers, transmission and distribution lines, accessory structures and access roads – are prohibited above 1,700 feet elevation."

The elevation at the proposed site is 1,900 feet.

The select board disputed the VTel contention that the broadband tower was necessary and would "bring reliable, high-speed wireless internet service to un-served homes and businesses throughout Fayston."

"The applicant does not sufficiently demonstrate that our area is 'underserved' for broadband access. We currently have broadband access available through Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom," the board wrote in its January 20 letter.

VTel is a Springfield-based Internet service provider that also provides cable, telephone and wireless service. The application notes that VTel has "insufficient wireless coverage in the town of Fayston." The maps submitted with the application show no existing VTel coverage in Waitsfield or Fayston other than the proposed coverage due to the new tower.

If the tower is built, VTel plans to offer wireless Internet services to homes and businesses in the area.

Waitsfield Telecom currently provides high-speed Internet services as well as cable, phone and long-distance services to all areas of Fayston.

By statute, the PSB has the authority to approve the location of broadband and cell towers. The PSB will consider input from local towns and abutters as well as the policies of a town's Town Plan, but the board can overrule Town Plans and disregard the recommendations of the town and/or abutters.

The covenants of the 1998 subdivision specifically prohibit any commercial uses of the lots and also prohibit devices for reception or transmission larger than 18 inches in circumference.