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 Supply 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 state 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 Superior 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 protect 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 and 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 communications 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’ 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 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 months 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 digest 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 amended 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.. (By Cristina Kumka)
NOTE: We really hope that VELCO will find a solution to solve this problem. We read on their website that the company received in the past a lot of prizes for his great work. We are sure that they will underestand that sometimes people needs cannot be obtained by damage other ones even if they are in minority. We are sure that nobody from VELCO would like to live and grow their childrens under huge antennas and radiations. On the same time we underestand the needs of the company. But for a wild, try to imagin be in the Sergei’s situation to better underestand his feelings. Especially when you invest on the house of your dreams that one day are broken by someone even don’t know and don’t care about you. Fighting against institutions as simple citizen is not easy. So we hope so much that this time VELCO will demonstrate that even a Corporation can be sensible to a request of simple people. A NIKE advertisment says: IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING. We are sure that there is a solution somewere. They just have to find it. VELCO will receive the biggest prize for that. Our compliments and the gratitude of Sedrgei’s children, the new generation of Vermont, that is also the future of that beautiful land. ( Just take a look on their eyes before to take a decision ). From 5Magazine (Italy) we will follow this story and keep you updated about Sergei’s family situation.