Homeowner fights corporation over private cell tower

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Homeowner fights corporation over private cell tower

By
Cristina Kumka

STAFF WRITER
-

Published: September 18, 2010

WELLS


A Wells family has gone to court to fight a corporation that wants to build
a
wireless communications network on a tower 60 feet from their home.


Sergei Kniazev and Olga Julinska bought the 10
-
acre property and former home of the
Vanderminden family off Butts Hill Road in 2007 in hopes of living and working there


raising their

two young boys and creating an art studio and school atop Northeast
Mountain.


The couple, Russian immigrants who run a widely publicized art company, now say their
lives are in jeopardy because of Vermont Transco LLC and partner Vermont Electric
Power S
upply Inc., or VELCO.


Transco and VELCO are seeking a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public
Service Board


a permit to build an 80
-
foot tower with seven broadband and
microwave antennas near the family’s home to provide VELCO and other stat
e electrical
workers with better wireless service during emergencies.


Called the Statewide Radio Project, or SRP, it is similar to a cell phone network,
according to the company’s Sept. 7 response to a civil lawsuit filed by the couple in
Rutland Superio
r Court.


Kniazev and Julinska claim that the company’s proposal violates an easement on the
tower, and that construction of the higher
-
powered tower would damage the property and
put the family’s enjoyment of it at risk.


“We are doing the lawsuit to pro
tect our family from radiation,” Julinska said. “It’s clear
that this is just the tip of the iceberg ... broadband, Smart Grid, everything is going to be
put up on this tower.”


The couple purchased the property with an existing low
-
frequency radio tower a
nd
easement on it owned by James Fischer, a resident of Ballston Spa, N.Y.


The tower was built in 1992 by Robert Vanderminden Jr., who had owned the property
since 1977, and from 1995
-
2005, operated Northeast Mountain Radio.


Northeast Mountain Radio was

a commercial radio business and paging service from the
tower, according to VELCO’s counterclaim.


In 2003, Vanderminden sold the tower and easement to Fischer, who is now using it for
his own business Goin’ Mobile LLC and renting space to two communicat
ions
companies and Poultney radio station WNYV 94.1 FM.


Julinska said when she bought the property she knew immediately that the radio tower
was something the couple didn’t want on the property and offered to buy the tower and
easement from Fischer last
summer.


He asked for $80,000, according to Julinska, but the family couldn’t afford it.


A short time later, VELCO agreed to buy the tower and easement if they got the
necessary permits to replace the tower with a new one for SRP.


The companies’ existin
g plan for output puts electromagnetic radiation levels from the
tower at 73.1 percent of maximum permissible output allowed by the federal government
for exposure to the general public, according to Julinska and a an electromagnetic
exposure analysis done

by Giant Solutions, Inc., on behalf of VELCO.


“Anything else that goes on there will exceed the maximum,” Julinska said.


Burlington Attorney William Dodge is representing Transco and VELCO.


Dodge asked the Wells Planning Commission Wednesday if they

could offer a positive
recommendation to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission for the project.


The regional planning commission is considering the proposal Sept. 21.


Dodge defended the project, saying construction will take place in the winter mont
hs
when the family is typically not there, electromagnetic levels are below maximum and
the tower is the only site on the mountain with infrastructure and power that already
exists.


The commission denied Dodge’s request, saying they needed more time to d
igest the
information provided to them.


Kniazev and Julinska have not submitted any health or impact studies, according to
commission Chairman Richard Larson.


Larson said he wouldn’t want to live near the tower either but there is nothing a local
entity

can do to stop it from happening, according to federal law.


According to the Telecommunciations Act of 1996, “ no state or local governmental
entity may regulate the placement, construction, or modification of personal wireless
service facilities on the
basis of environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the
extent that such emissions comply with FCC regulations.”


The commission also considered an active application filed by Kniazev and Julinska last
fall to install two 337
-
feet
-
high windmill
power generators on their property.


“Windmills are just something we were thinking about,” Julinska said.


Still, the family says they are fighting for their wellbeing.


“According to the land use permit, no new antennas are to installed without an amend
ed
permit,” Julinska told the commission Wednesday.


“This is a project that’s going to violate all of our rights,” she said.


The commission will take up the issue from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Wells Village
School.


cristina.kumka@rutlandherald.com


VELCO to ask planning group for tower support

By
Cristina Kumka

staff writer
-

Published: September 21, 2010

Representatives of a utility company
will ask a regional planning commision tonight to
support its statewide radio project. Vermont Electric Power Supply, Inc. or VELCO’s
initiative includes installing broadband and microwave antennas on 36 to 40 mountaintop
sites throughout Vermont, includin
g a controversial location in Wells.


The Rutland Regional Planning Commission will hear the proposal at the meeting which
starts at 5 p.m.


William Dodge, an attorney representing VELCO and partner Vermont Transco, LLC.,
said the commission asked the comp
any to attend the meeting to explain its statewide
project.


According to Vermont statute Act 248, companies looking to install new electric facilities
in the state must get a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board. Local and
regional pla
nning commissions are expected to weigh in on the proposal before the
company gets the certificate.


The approval process includes getting recommendations from municipal and regional
planning commissions, municipal legislative bodies and the company must c
onform to
the land conservation measures contained in the town plan of the affected town.


The company has 45 days to notify the town and regional commissions before applying
for the certificate, according to the law.


The project must also not have an ad
verse effect on public health and safety, something a
Wells couple is fighting in court.


The tower is to be sited within a 24
-
by
-
24
-
foot easement on Northeast Mountain, inside a
10
-
acre property owned by Sergei Kniazev and Olga Julinska. The couple filed
a civil
lawsuit in Rutland Superior Court in August, claiming the company is violating the
boundaries of the easement. The couple also claim that the telecommunications project
will affect their quality of life because radio frequency emissions, or electro
magnetic
radiation, will be coming from the tower, located 60 feet from their home.


Dodge said the company is not required to amend the permit on the easement, which
VELCO intends to buy if it gets permitting for the tower installations.


Dodge also said
he would not get into a “strategic discussion” on why VELCO decided to
bypass the Act 250 process for environmental impact projects.


“We think it (Act 248) is a good law, a smart law and has specific timelines for approvals
and rejections,” Dodge said.


Annette Smith of Danby, chair of the RRPC’s Energy Committee, visited the Wells
property and a recent Wells Planning Commission meeting on behalf of the family.


Smith said VELCO’s appearance at the commission meeting tonight is for the company
to get inf
ormation to improve their application but according to Smith, that didn’t seem to
be the case.


“This is supposed to give the applicant an opportunity to address local concerns,” Smith
said Monday. “This is for the benefit of VELCO and they pretty clearly
aren’t listening.”


The commission meeting begins at 5 p.m. with a review of Act 250 applications and
VELCO’s presentation.


The meeting is on the third floor of Rutland’s Opera House at 67 Merchants Row.


At 6 p.m., the RRPC board will meet with the Rutl
and Economic Development Corp.
board to discuss ongoing initiatives and collaborations.


cristina.kumka@rutlandherald.com


Regional planning group skips decision on tower

By
Cristina Kumka

STAFF WRITER
-

Published: September 23, 2010

A regional planning group decided Tuesday not to make a recommendation, either
positive or negative, for a controversial telecommunications tower proposal in Wells.


The Rutland Regional Planning Commission was briefed on Vermont Electric Power
Company’s plan to install anywhere from 36 to 40 towers on mountaintops statewide for
an employee radio network.


One of those towers in Wells is the subject of a heated legal

battle between the company
and a family that lives 60 feet from where the company wants to install it.


Members of the commission raised concerns about a lack of investigation of other
potential sites and the maximum allowable exposure the family would h
ave to radiation
coming from the numerous antennas proposed to be fixed on the tower.


And shortly after the commission was told the construction of the Wells tower was in the
hands of the Rutland Superior Court, the meeting was adjourned.


William Dodge
, an attorney for VELCO and partner Vermont Transco, said the sites,
including the one in Wells, were chosen because of existing infrastructure. Power, an
existing lattice tower and a road are already there.


“It’s expensive to build an access road,” Dodg
e told the commission.


VELCO is applying for a certificate of public good, a permit different from Act 250,
under Vermont law Act 248.


Act 248 requires regional and local planning officials to weigh in on proposed projects
before an application is filed

with the Vermont Public Service Board.


Opponents of the project, including Danby’s Annette Smith, the chairwoman of the
regional commission’s energy committee, have argued that VELCO’s presentations
before the commission and the Wells Planning Commission

have been more to inform
the community what the company already has set in stone: its intention to build,
regardless of the community’s concerns.


The Wells proposal is part of the company’s statewide radio project to improve the
communications among elec
tric service employees statewide during outages and
emergencies.


Dodge said Tuesday that there would be room for other communications providers


from radio stations to cell service providers


to co
-
locate on the tower once it’s built,
and it could be us
ed for more than the company’s radio project.


Dodge told the commission that studies show the radiation coming from the tower at the
base would be 68 percent of the maximum allowable output for public health, under
federal law.


At the nearby home, the r
adiation level would 73 percent, if the tower were using all of
its power at once, Dodge said.


Rob Woolmington, an attorney representing homeowners Sergei Kniazev and Olga
Julinska, asked the commission to consider the need for more information on blasti
ng
near the family home, effects on a nearby water well used by the family, and radiation
emitting from the tower if more providers were to co
-
locate and use the tower.


Julinska stood up and told the commission, “What they (VELCO) are not saying is that
they don’t have the property owners’ permission or the legal authority to build it.”


The proposal will be taken up at the commission’s next meeting.


For more information or a meeting agenda, call 775
-
0871.


cristina.kumka@rutland herald.com


Rutland He
rald

Tower Proposal Proves Contentious in Wells




By

Cristina Kumka

STAFF WRITER
-

Published:
October 5, 2010


The
Wells Planning Commission

has concerns about the construction of a
tele
communications
tower

proposed by a Vermont utility company for the old Vanderminden estate atop Northeast
Mountain.


In a 2
-
4 vote, the local board decided Sept. 29 not to offer a recommendation to the
Vermont
Public Service Board



objecting to a request
for support from project developers Vermont
Electric Power Co. and Vermont Transco.


VELCO and Vermont Transco are in the process of applying for an Act 248 permit, or a certificate
of public good, with the state board.



Part of that process is getting in
put from local entities.


After three meetings, the majority of the
Planning Commission

decided to write a letter to the
state citing concerns about how close the proposed tower site is to a residence, insufficient power
supply on the property, difficult a
ccess in case of fire, noise and pollution from the tower and
visual problems the tower may cause.



The board's conclusion was confirmed by Board Chairman Richard Larson Monday, although he
declined to comment on the project any further.



Two members of
the board were in favor of the project, claiming that communication during
emergencies and storms would be improved in town and among
emergency service workers

when the tower is installed.


The site, on an easement above Northeast Mountain off Butts Hill R
oad, is the subject of a
heated legal battle between the companies and Sergei Kniazev and Olga Julinska, who live in a
home 60 feet from where the company wants to raise the 80
-
foot tower.


The couple bought the property in 2007 from Robert Vanderminden Jr
., with the understanding
that the easement and a low
-
emission
radio tower

currently on the property were there and
owned by someone else.


The couple tried to buy the easement from owner James Fischer of Ballston Spa, N.Y., but didn't
have enough money, a
ccording to Olga Julinska.


VELCO, on the other hand, agreed to buy it if it got the necessary permits to build the company's
new tower.


The couple filed a civil lawsuit in August debating the boundaries of that easement and have
recently engaged the help

of William Simon, a Washington, D.C.
-
based attorney who specializes
in fighting telecommunications and broadcasting sites, according to Felix Kniazev.


The couple says they are fighting to keep their children safe from radiation.


The companies' existing
plan for output puts electromagnetic radiation levels from the tower at
73.1 percent of maximum permissible output allowed by the federal government for exposure to
the public, according to an electromagnetic exposure analysis done by Giant Solutions Inc.
on
behalf of VELCO.


That output doesn't include anything more than the seven antennae already proposed for the
tower.


William Dodge
, an attorney representing the companies, told the Rutland
Regional Planning
Commission

last month that there would be room

on the tower for other communications
providers


from radio stations to cell service providers


once it's built and it could be used for
more than is already in the works.


The Wells tower would be part of a
statewide radio project

aimed at improving co
mmunications
among utility workers during emergencies, with the installation of 36 to 40 tower sites statewide.


Dodge said last week the local planning commission's concerns will be taken care of.


“We will address them all in the application (to the Publ
ic Service Board) and the board members
all agreed that the project is consistent with the objective in the town plan, to improve emergency
service in the
town of Wells

in the instance where there is any type of weather
-
related
emergency,” Dodge said Thurs
day.


The company had 45 days to notify the town and regional commissions before applying for the
certificate, according to state law.



The regional planning commission is expected to make a decision on the tower
Oct. 19
.



Susan Hudson, clerk of the Publ
ic Service Board, said the state board reviews all objections and
recommendations that make it to its desk.




Governing bodies

and landowners all have an opportunity to file comments with the board. The
board reviews everything in respect to a specific pr
oject,” Hudson said.


cristina.kumka@rutlandherald.com


Area Planner Subpoenaed in Tower Battle

By Cristina Kumka

Staff writer

Annette Smith, a Rutland Regional Planning
Commission

member
and executive director of
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, has been subpoenaed into court.

The news, announced by Smith at the commission meeting on Tuesday, is the latest chapter in
an ongoing battle she h
as with a corporation that want
s to build a tel
ecommunications tower
60
feet from the home of a young

couple in Wells.

Smith said she has no
signed contract and is not perfo
rming any formal services for Sergei
Kniazev and Olga Julinska, who are in the midst of a legal fight in c
i
vil court with Vermont
Electric
Power Co.

VELCO is applying to the state for an Act 248 permit, a certificate of public good, to install an 80
-
foot tower for a statewide radio project that would initially serve electric workers during
emergencies, then expand to possible include

other networks, including cell phone companies,
according to the testimony provided by VELCO’s lawyer, William Dodge.

Smith became involved in September when the Wells Planning Commission first considered the
project.

The town commission and the regional
commission on Tuesday voted neither to support nor
oppose the project


both public bodies decided not to issue an opinion on the matter based on
concerns about how close the tower would be to the couple’s Northeast Mountain home and the
legality of it, si
nce the issue is being argued in court.

Smith’s subpoena requires her to give the court any documented communication she has had
with the couple.

“What this means is that I have to hire a lawyer,” Smith said. “This has never happened to
Vermonters for a Cl
ean Environment in 11 years of doing this kind of work.” Julinska raised more
concerns
on Tuesday on the VELCO proposal, showing the panel photos of what she said was
an insufficient power line on the ground leading up to the tower that she said VELCO plan
ned to
use to provide electricity to the facility.

She also claimed the tower is part of a larger, federally funded project to bring more than just
radio communication to Vermont.

VELCO’s statewide project plans to include 36 to 40 mountaintop towers throu
ghout Vermont.

Utility Withdraws Subpoena Request

By Cristina Kumka,

Staff writer

WELLS


Vermont Electric Power Co. or VELCO withdrew a court subpoena on Annette Smith, a
foe of one the company’s proposed developments atop Northeast Mountain in Wells.

Ker
rick Johnson, vice president of external affairs for VELCO, confirmed Thursday that Smith,
who served as an advocate for the property owners who are suing VELCO over a tower they plan
to build near it, was not part of the ongoing litigation.

Johnson said S
mith will receive written confirmation in the days to come that she didn’t have to
submit all written communication she has had with the property owners.

“We withdrew it because we’re not so sure it’s necessary,” Johnson said. “The biggest factor was
that
we just want to concentrate on settling the issue with the homeowners.”


VELCO defends Wells tower expansion


By

Cristina Kumka

Staff Writer
-

Published: January 3, 2011


Controversy over
a radio tower in Wells, the object of Vermont Electric Power Co. and the subject
of a lawsuit filed by neighboring property owners, made the front page of an advocacy group’s
annual report and the power company is refuting that version.


The 2010 End of Ye
ar Report by Vermonters for a Clean Environment, authored by executive
director Annette Smith of Danby, features the story of Felix and Olga Kniazev.


The Russian couple live 60 feet away from a old radio tower atop Northeast Mountain in Wells, a
site that

is part of VELCO’s statewide radio project to upgrade wireless radio service for
emergency responders.


The couple is arguing for the health of their family in court, claiming an upgraded tower installed
by VELCO will emit radio frequency emissions that a
re unhealthy.



VELCO is applying to the state for an Act 248 permit, also known as a certificate of public good,
to install its own 80
-
foot tower for the project that will expand to possibly include other networks,
including cell phone companies, accordin
g to weeks of testimony provided by VELCO’s lawyer
William Dodge.


The Wells Planning Commission and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission recently voted
neither to support nor oppose the project; both public bodies decided not to issue an opinion on
th
e matter based on concerns about how close the tower would be to the couple’s home and the
legality of it, since the issue is being argued in court.


Smith became involved with the fight against the project in September when the Wells Planning
Commission f
irst considered the project.


On the front page of the report, Smith claims VELCO can lease the extra space on the tower to
cell companies and broadband installers as part of the state’s “smart grid” upgrade.


Smith claims the project is actually part of t
he smart grid project, with the goal of installing 200
wireless communication towers and providing smart meter installation to nearly all electricity
users, purchase and testing of electric hybrid vehicles and exploring distributed energy
generation.


“Whi
le many of the goals of the project make sense, VCE (Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
is finding that the implementation process VELCO is engaged in is, in this case, heavy
-
handed
and not transparent,” Smith wrote.


“I’m confused about all that’s going
on and that’s why I say it’s not transparent,” Smith said in a
phone interview Thursday. “It’s about more than just utility service workers’ needs, it’s about a
component of the smart grid. In addition, it’s a broadband build
-
out. In addition to that, we a
re
seeing a cell tower build
-
out.”


Smith claims there needs to be a “better understanding from the public perspective where these
towers are going and where the health issues are and is there some way to do this hard
-
wired.”


VELCO said Smith’s claims are

all untrue.


“Annette continues to be focused on the past and we are focused on getting this important project
built,” said Kerrick Johnson, external affairs representative with VELCO. “This is not part of the
smart grid. The reason why you haven’t heard
it tied to the Wells tower project is because it isn’t
tied to the Wells tower project.”


Johnson said Smith’s report “may sell a side of the story, but it’s handicapped by the fact that it’s
inaccurate.”


cristina.kumka @rutlandherald.com