Proposed cell towers face stiff opposition in some Vermont towns

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 5:39 PM EST
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WORCESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermonters want better cell service-- but not cell towers in their towns. Gov. Phil Scott has proposed $51 million be spent to put up 100 new cell towers throughout the state. But even in towns like Worcester, with fewer than 1,000 residents, there’s stiff opposition to new towers.

The state says there are a few towns currently engaging in cell tower proposal discussions.

Monday in Worcester, some neighbors and the town told me they’re all for progress and technology, but they are not OK with this location.

Industrial Communications out of Massachusetts wants to put up a tower in Worcester but it won’t be easy.

“Imagine sitting down for dinner knowing this 200-foot tower is looming over your home 300 feet away,” said Kathy Burrows, a Norton Road neighbor.

The town of Worcester and some townspeople say they don’t want a tower built on Norton Road near Ellis Bruce Trail, a popular nature spot overlooking the Worcester range.

“We don’t want it near the trail and we don’t want it 300 feet away from the nearest neighbor,” said Ted Lamb, the chair of the Worcester Selectboard.

On the town’s website, a petition opposing the tower’s height and location garnered at least 94 signatures.

“We understand this is much larger than our little town, but our little town cares for one another and we have lots of reasons to think this would not be an acceptable delivery of this kind of service,” Burrows said.

Thirty miles south, the town of Chelsea is engaging in a similar debate.

AT&T proposed a 140-foot-tall communications tower in the historic village near the school.

The planning commission says the school district doesn’t want the tower there and 60 residents signed a petition trying to stop it from being built.

Chair Dickson Corbett writes the planning commission would be more receptive to a proposal that is: “(1) located the tower away from sensitive areas such as the school and the historic and scenic village and (2) does not have a significant environmental, health, or aesthetic impact or an undue impact upon the rural character of the town.”

In response, AT&T issued its own statement, saying, “We remain willing to continue our work with local officials and permitting authorities to identify a solution that balances the needs of our customers with the concerns expressed by some members of the community.”

The Vermont Public Utilities Commission has the final say on the siting of towers.

Clay Purvis works for the state Department of Public Service. He says in general, most tower proposals don’t get a ton of objection. He says with the potential for 100 cell towers, the state plans to work with towns to make decisions based on need.

“When we go to select locations for siting, we are taking into account the town plans and the regional plans and making decisions that the town is aware of and supportive of in advance of building a site or applying for a permit to build a site,” Purvis said.

I reached out to Industrial Technologies, that Massachusetts company that wants to build the Worcester tower, but I didn’t hear back before this story was published.

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