The fights continues to prevent cell tower in Wells

The official rulings are starting to pile up against Felix Kniazev and Olga Julinska is their fight to keep the Vermont Electric Power Co. from expanding a cell tower on the couple’s mountaintop home in Wells, but it hasn’t kept them from continuing to fight.

The latest hearing was the final ruling from the Vermont Public Service Board, the quasi-governmental body that oversees the state’s utilities. In it, the board again ruled in favor of Velco, granting the company access to the existing tower, rights of way through the property on top of the mountain and the right to expand the power.

“The PSB is rubber-stamping everything,” said Kniazev. He and Julinska are now launching an appeal in civil court in Rutland, trying to get a jury trial for their case.

The couple has also joined forces with opponents of large-scale wind projects, Green Mountain Power’s new “smart grid” wireless metering program, the attempt to add chloramine to Rutland’s water and foes of Green Mountain Power’s recent takeover of Central Vermont Public Service.

The threads tying all these cases together, said Kniazev, are the prohibitive cost for an individual trying to fight the system and the unaccountability of the PSB. The board is appointed by the governor, not elected directly.

 

Event set for Aug. 25

Kniazev and Julinska will host “Mountaintop Justice,” an event to support the suit against the PSB On Saturday, Aug. 25.

The event will include a rally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and art, performances and live music until dusk. It will be held on Northeast Mountain, 201 Butts Hill Road in Wells, Vt.

Those expected to attend include Sens. Bob Hartwell and Bill Carris, Rep. Cynthia Browning, Annette Smith, Wendy Rae Woods, Steven Howard and others. Additional speakers will include Ed Morrow of Northshire Bookstore, Ed Friedman, who was involved in successful Smart Meters litigation in Maine and Rep. Andrea Boland of Maine.

There will be live music and camping and food by Trolley Stop. For further information call 802 779-6038 or email felix@artdep.com.

 

A step too far

For Kniazev and Julinska, emigres from Russia who have been working together since 1999 under the rubric of the Art Department, with studios in Boston and Wells, the latest PSB is a step too far. He says the board granted two rights of way for power lines to and from the cell tower, which would overlap the existing power line for the couple’s studio and home, plus a 60-by-60 foot easement for the tower, expanded from the original 25-foot radius, plus permits a generator and two buildings, one for the generator and one for a cooling plant, 24/7 access and putting up any number of towers of whatever height the company sees fit.

It’s not like the site is the only mountaintop VELCO had at its disposal, Kniazev said. The company wanted it simply because it was partly developed, which made it the cheapest and easiest option. Combined with the state government’s expressed desire to fast-track cell towers, and Kniazev feels like the deck is stacked against him.

For example, the tower is currently powered by the line that serves the couple’s home and studio, which Kniazev said is illegal. It’s not sufficiently grounded, and he does not have a permit to “submeter” electricity, which is required before a homeowner can forward on power to another customer. But when he tried to shut the power off, the PSB denied his request.

Now, he said, the surveyors have been through to mark off the land granted to VELCO by the board. There is only about an acre of relatively level ground at the site, and when the survey stakes were finally placed, Kniazev can’t even get from his house to his car without crossing VELCO’s right-of-way.

Kniazev and Julinska have been fighting for two years, and they hope that with the help of groups like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and politicians like Sen. Carris that they might have a chance in court.

But it’s been a difficult and expensive proposition, going up against all the experts and lawyers on retainer for the utility companies.

“The average citizens have no choice,” he said. “They can’t afford it.”

Comments

comments

Read more in this week's Sentinel in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Tags:

Girls fall to Greenwich in opener

A stingy defense was too much for Granville to overcome in season opener Friday night. Granville was held to seven […]

Girls compete with Cougars

The Whitehall girls’ basketball team (0-3) is still seeking its first win of the season. However, the girls stuck with […]

Boys’ hoops handed first loss

After leaping out to a 2-0 start, the Whitehall boys’ basketball team was grounded at North Warren, 65-43. To say […]

Main Street rebounding, says dog salon owner

Dog Salon

By Dan King Malin Shepherd’s new dog salon on Main Street is a sign, she says, that the street is […]

Dared by friends, she write a novel

Author

By Derek Liebig It started with a dare. A few years ago, Granville resident Michele Sargent was having lunch with […]

Town to host hearing on fire protection

By Derek Liebig The town board will hold a public hearing later this month on proposed contracts for fire protection […]

School board discusses data, expenses

By Dan King The Whitehall Board of Education examined test data Monday and the analysis revealed the district still has […]

Village sewer fund gets $600,000 more

By Dan King The Village of Whitehall has received another $600,000 to work on sanitary and storm sewer separation in […]

All-star game for Milletts

Millett goes to Allstar game

By Dan King Whitehall-native Justin Millett, offensive lineman for the Glens Falls Green Jackets, represented his team at the Minor […]

Boys hoops fall in season opener

Greenwich’s ability to hit the outside shot sunk Granville in its season opener Friday night. The Witches hit 11 3-pointers […]

Commercial farming being redefined

The Town of Granville is in the process of updating its Right-to-Farm Law so that is differentiates between commercial and […]

School hires transportation coordinator

Tyler Kelly was hired as transportation supervisor for the Granville school district, replacing John Steves, who resigned last month. Kelly, […]