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Posts Tagged ‘telecommunications’

St. Oswald's Church, Hooe UKTelecom infrastructure developers in Vermont must comply with Act 250, Vermont’s environmental conservation and development law. However, in some very specific situations, developers can avoid complying with Act 250’s requirements through careful siting of a project on preexisting structures. In In re Vermont RSA Ltd. Partnership, 181 Vt. 589, 925 A.2d 1006 (Vt. 2007), Verizon Wireless used the preexisting structure loophole to avoid complying with Act 250.

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In 2008 a landowner in Cabot applied to mount six AT&T cell phone towers on a silo located on their property. Fourteen  individuals, including neighbors and residents of Cabot, filed a petition with the Zoning Board of Adjustment challenging the infrastructure permit.

Originally, it was proposed that the equipment used to support the six AT&T panel antennas would be located entirely within the silo. However, the continued usefulness of the silo was called into question by the necessary adjustments (i.e. cutting a door in the bottom of the silo) that would accompany this proposal. It would be necessary for the support equipment to be outside of the silo in a storage shed. This triggered local Regulations, which required that the applicant plan to include a six-foot-high fence to surround the storage shed. See Town and Village of Cabot Zoning Regulations. The applicant still planned for the six AT&T panel antennas to be located on the outside of the silo. (more…)

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Infrastructure development, such as telecom towers, can pose aesthetic and safety threats to local communities and as such development in Vermont is often met with vehement opposition. All municipal land use decisions go directly to the Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court. Decisions by the environmental court are directly appealable to the Vermont Supreme Court.

If citizen groups do not win at the local level (i.e. a project is permitted) and the environmental court affirms the decision, citizens can appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court. The success of such an appeal hinges on the standard of review the Vermont Supreme Court uses to evaluate the legal reasoning of the environmental court. When the supreme court reviews the environmental court, the supreme court’s standard of review is the amount of deference it affords the environmental court in its decision making.

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