OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
EMERGENCY MEETING MINUTES
MAY 28, 2014
The meeting was convened at 10:04 am at 72 Old Stage Road, Halifax. Board members in attendance were Earl Holtz and Edee Edwards. Lewis Sumner was absent. Also in attendance were Larry Crosier and Howard Smith, and Gordon Matthews from VTEL.
VTEL Wireless Broadband Monopole Proposal
Gordon Matthews does site acquisition for VTEL, and he came with short notice (hence the emergency meeting notice) to review the site. Earl Holtz gave him a petition in support of the tower and site with approximately 75 signatures.
Matthews reviewed the current status of the proposal. The 45-day “Pre-filing Notice” was submitted the Public Service Board and Town (as discussed in a Selectboard meeting on 1/7/2014); that period is now over. The separate, federally required NEPA review, which includes historical significance of the site, is underway, and the survey had been done by an independent contractor, who will submit their findings to the State. Matthews said that the reason for his visit is that they did find debris at the site of the former schoolhouse and proposed location, and he wanted to review the site to see whether site adjustments could be made.
Holtz expressed concerns about the timing for submitting the final proposal to the Public Service Board. The status of legislation that might extend the date of regulations for siting of telecommunications towers (Section 248(a)) is unclear. If the law was not revised, the streamlined permitting process may expire on July 1, 2014. Matthews noted that 248(a) process requires the project be submitted within 6 months of the pre-filing, so he expects VTEL will submit the information within the next few weeks.
The meeting moved to the site location, closer to Jacksonville Stage Road. Larry Crosier pointed out the various locations where the archaeological digs had been done. A few small brick pieces were visible where the footprint of the old building was.
Matthews and Crosier discussed various options for possibly re-siting the tower. Moving it slightly to the west or north would mean it would lose some elevation and require a fair amount of tree removal, or disturbance of a stone wall. (Moving it toward the cemetery was not discussed.) Moving towards the road would mean it is less than 100 feet from the road and might cause traffic problems in the unlikely event the tower fell. Edwards and Crosier noted that a microburst came through the area 2 years ago. Matthews said that a “break away” design would decrease the likelihood of the tower blocking a road, as the tower would be designed to break at a specific location into shorter sections. (The monopole tower is proposed at 90 feet tall.) Matthews also acknowledged the possibility of an historic plaque about the schoolhouse.
Crosier noted that he still felt the current site was the best. There was some discussion that the tower allowing Internet access represents education today, and siting it at an historic school could be seen as fitting in a way.
Hearing of Visitors
Howard Smith spoke about the level of support in the town for the tower and his own support for it as a neighboring resident, and the desire for timely acquisition of high speed service. He asked if small changes to the original proposal would require a repeat of studies like the balloon test (See minutes from 1/4/2014). Matthews said it should not.
Edwards noted that VTEL should have received comments signed by 4 residents that were not in favor of site, which Matthews acknowledged.
Matthews said he would continue discussions with the archaeologists and also with Crosier as the site owner.
Meeting was closed at 10:52 AM.
Edee Edwards, Selectboard Member