Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cell Tower Process & Update

Did you hear that some new cell towers will be coming to Pelham?

As you may recall, a couple of years ago Rogers Communications notified the Town that they planned to install two such towers. They intended to build one on Canboro Road near Victoria Avenue and the other tower along Victoria Avenue near Twenty Road.

At the time, many local residents asked Town Council to get involved in the process. They were concerned about the health effects of the radio waves on them and their children.

While Rogers ultimately did not proceed with these applications, Council learned that two Federal Departments govern the process – Industry Canada and Health Canada.

Health Canada works to ensure that installations meet health guidelines; specifically, all towers must meet something called “Safety Code 6” which regulates radio frequencies to limit human exposure.

After meeting Health Canada guidelines, Industry Canada regulates location and building standards (under the National Building Code).

But, just prior to the 2009 Pelham applications, Industry Canada opened the door to allowing municipalities to get involved in the approval process.

I stress “process.” You see, Industry Canada allowed Cities and Towns to develop protocols for public engagement. So, Council took advantage of the situation and is among a few municipalities that have developed protocols. Now, the Town hosts a public meeting, facilitates information exchanges with residents, and compels applicants to circulate notice to affected neighbours.

Again, I stress “process” because we have no ability to approve or deny an application. The most we can do is “humbly request.”

This happened recently when Rogers Communication notified the Town that it intended to install two cellular towers – one at the original Victoria Avenue / Twenty Road area, and a second near Chantler Road and Murdoch Street. The Town’s protocol compelled Rogers to circulate notice to a wider group of nearby residents and participate in a public meeting (held on March 28). At Council’s April 18 meeting we not only received a staff report about that meeting, we also heard presentations by a concerned resident and by Rogers.

At the meeting, Council “humbly requested” Rogers to demonstrate that they were a “good corporate citizen” by getting a building permit, painting the towers grey (to blend in with the sky), shielding any airplane warning lights, and refraining from co-locating cell transmitters from other companies (to limit exposure). Rogers agreed to the requests.

Should other applications arise, the Town will continue to follow this “process” and will likely continue to “humbly request” concessions.