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Supreme Court Affirms Public Service Board’s Denial of Landowner’s Motion to Intervene Regarding Telecommunications Project

In In re Petition of VTel Wireless, Inc., 2015 VT 135 (November 20, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Public Service Board’s grant of a Certificate of Public Good for the installation of a telecommunications facility in the Town of Bennington.

Issue: Appellants, two adjoining landowners to the proposed project, filed a timely motion to intervene before the Public Service Board citing the adverse aesthetic impact of the project. Appellants claimed that they planned to develop and sell the adjoining parcel and that the proposed telecommunications tower would be visible from the development site. Their motion to intervene was denied by the Public Service Board without a hearing and this appeal followed. Appellants argued that the Board erred in concluding that Appellants: (1) lacked a substantial interest entitling them to intervene in the matter; and (2) failed to raise a significant issue under any of the relevant criteria of 30 V.S.A. § 248a which would have entitled them to a hearing.

Holding: The Court held that the Public Service Board did not err in concluding that the Appellants failed to raise a significant issue which would entitle them to a hearing and, therefore, was not required to address whether Appellants had a substantial interest to intervene in the matter. ­­­­­­­­­­­­The Court noted that the Board had found the project one of “limited size and scope” pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 248a(j)(1), that it did not violate any community standards, and that it would have no undue adverse effect on aesthetics. In reaching its decision, the Court emphasized the limited nature of its review in matters concerning the approval of Certificates of Public Good, noting it gives significant deference to the Board’s decisions given its particular expertise in such matters.

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