Many Warren residents are concerned about the 140-foot cellphone tower Verizon has proposed to be built on Airport Road. A petition with 321 signatures (as of the time The Valley Reporter goes to press) can be found at stopwarrencelltower.com/. The petition states, “The undersigned full- and part-time residents of Warren and neighboring towns urge the members of both the Warren Planning Commission and Select Board to actively oppose this proposal to place such a visible tower in the heart of the Mad River Valley.”
On December 7, Warren residents met on Zoom with Annette Smith, the director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment to learn more about the process of intervening with an application for a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC), such as the one Verizon plans to file.
The applicant (Verizon) must notify the municipal bodies of its intent to file 60 days prior to filing an application. Verizon’s attorneys sent a letter to the Warren Planning Commission on October 31, 2022, leaving the town until the end of this month to provide community input about the proposed project to influence the application.
CONTACT THE APPLICANT
Smith said, “Recipients of an advance notice filing who have concerns about the project are encouraged to contact the applicant during the 60-day period. The purpose of the advance notice is to provide the opportunity for the applicant to resolve such concerns before the application is filed with the commission.”
Section248a says substantial deference will be given to the Town Plan and the recommendations of the town select board and planning commission in considering an application and that the applicant shall attend a meeting with the town at the request of the municipal boards within that 60-day period. Twice Verizon representatives have been invited to appear before the town but have declined or canceled. A meeting was scheduled for December 12, but Verizon canceled due to a conflict of interest with its attorney. Verizon has since retained a new attorney and has offered to meet with the town on January 9, as well as January 23, if a second meeting is desired. Those meetings need to be confirmed with the town’s attorney.
Once the application is filed, the town then has 30 days to file a request to intervene and request for a hearing. There is a discovery period and opportunity for testimony and exhibits, an evidentiary hearing, briefs, then the hearing officer enters the proposal for the decision and there is an opportunity to comment on the proposal for decision. A form may be filled out at epuc.vermont.gov by anyone impacted by the proposed project.
Smith noted that Verizon’s advance notice lacked details about the project, such as propagation maps showing the coverage the tower would provide and simulations to show what it would look like.
The PUC considers what is referred to as the “Quechee Analysis” when considering such projects, which requires that the project not be unduly adverse to the town. Smith said the societal benefit, such as improved cellphone coverage, may outweigh the substantial deference given to the Town Plan.
The planning commission and Warren residents also heard this week from Clare Rock of the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission about how regional and Town Plans are considered by the PUC. The meeting was held in the Warren Town Hall and on Zoom, though, given the size of the room, it was a challenge for many participating on Zoom to hear those in the room.
Rock gave an overview of the importance of having specific policies in Town Plans regarding telecommunications and the preservation of scenic areas, though noted that amending Town Plans typically takes months and is likely not possible to do to influence this celltower, given the timeline. She recommended including maps in the Town Plan that specify areas where the town wants to protect views and identifying clear policies regarding land development and where the town does not want to be developed.
She said, when looking at advance notices such as the one Verizon has submitted, questions to ask might include ‘does it have regional concern?’ and ‘is it going to affect a widely-used resource?’ Rock said the regional planning commission’s plan encourages developers to make an effort to protect scenic views and echo the desires of the local municipality.
The Warren Planning Commission and residents brainstormed potential questions to ask Verizon when it does meet with the town. Questions include ‘Does it have an adverse effect on the scenic nature of the area?’ ‘What will the effect be on wildlife, natural resources, and the environment?’ ‘Is this tower in the best location for its use?’ and ‘Will this installation help mobile phone reception for the many places in The Valley that have none?’ among others. Those with questions for Verizon can email them to zoning administrator Ruth Robbins at