The Associated Press MONTPELIER
The court refused Monday to hear a case in which Charlotte residents argued that local zoning regulations should supercede the Federal Communications Commission’s authority over a 199-foot tower that transmits signals for WIZN-FM, Verizon cellular telephones and local emergency services. Vermont’s congressional delegation vowed Monday to try to fix the problem in Congress.
“We are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to hear the arguments that would have been presented by the citizens of Vermont on the critical issue of local control over the siting of telecommunications towers,” said a statement issued jointly by Sens. James Jeffords and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Bernie Sanders.
The Charlotte Zoning Board of Adjustment issued a permit in 1987 for WIZN to build the tower on Pease Mountain. But the board said the radio station would have to address any problems that might arise if its signal interfered at nearby homes.
Soon after the tower was completed, residents began complaining that they could hear the signal through their appliances, including telephones and other electronic devices.
The town zoning administrator ruled in 1996 that the tower users were violating the zoning permit because of the interference. That ruling was appealed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which agreed that the permit was being violated. But the board said the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and other federal law gave jurisdiction to the FCC and the town was powerless. Local homeowners turned to the courts and U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions agreed with the radio station that only the FCC had authority. The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. “We conclude that allowing local zoning authorities to condition construction and use permits on any requirement to eliminate or remedy … interference ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress,”‘ the appeals court said, quoting an earlier court ruling. By its refusal to hear the case Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court.