A proposed Rogers telecommunications tower near the village of St. Clements received clearance this week from Wellesley council, giving the company the green light to proceed with construction.
Councillors passed a statement of concurrence acknowledging that Rogers undertook all necessary steps to mitigate the public concerns and resolve the relevant and non-relevant issues surrounding this particular tower.
The 45-metre tower, which is to be built at 4074 Hessen Strasse, drew the ire of nearby citizens last fall, prompting them to appear in front of councillors in October to request support in opposing to the project. They also presented a petition bearing the signature of 39 residents allied against the proposal.
They challenged the necessity of the tower and questioned why it was being built so close to a residential area. They also cited health concerns and property devaluation among their worries, but councillors elected to defer their decision until the public consultation period closed on Nov. 15.
Since the tower is not slated to be built on a residentially-zoned piece of property, there was no consultation required under Industry Canada guidelines, but Rogers chose to proceed with the consultation process anyway.
“I deliberately held Rogers to the higher standard of Industry Canada’s public consultation procedures which require full consultation, and I have taken this site through probably the most extensive public consultation that we have ever done on any site,” said Rogers’ site acquisition and municipal relations consultant Jeff McKay.
In documents provided to councillors, McKay demonstrated that Rogers had fully complied with its industry requirements, including informing all residents living within three-times the tower height of the site (135 metres) of the tower’s construction, publishing a notice in the newspaper, and responding to all concerns as they arose.
Rogers also showed that the current site was the most suitable for the area based on the number of residents impacted and the level of transmission coverage required. There were other proposed sites for the tower, but none met all the necessary criteria as well as the current site.
“This is simply a case of NIMBY [not in my backyard]; of course they are not opposed to moving it elsewhere,” said McKay of the citizens opposed to the tower in an email to chief administrative officer Susan Duke dated Nov. 15.
The township has no authority to dictate the location of the tower because all aspects relating to communication towers, from their engineering to their location, fall under the federal jurisdiction of Industry Canada.
Councillors debated at length about their decision, ultimately opting to concur rather than enter into a potentially lengthy – and expensive – impasse with Rogers. Should an impasse have occurred the issue would have been sent to Industry Canada, who would have examined all the documentation and likely ruled in favour of the telecommunications company anyway.
Robert Doerner, who lives just down the road from the proposed site, was at the meeting Tuesday night to voice his opposition to the tower based on his ongoing health concerns about long-term exposure to radiation from the tower.
“As we’ve seen in the past, issues with drugs and materials such as urea formaldehyde and asbestos, they have all gone from good and acceptable things to bad and unacceptable after a period of discovery has passed,” Doerner said.
“I do not want the radiation from this tower to impact our lives in a negative fashion.”
McKay countered those concerns by saying that under Safety Code 6, which covers the health effects of electromagnetic fields, Health Canada has determined these types of towers pose no threat to human health.
The telecommunications act also says that appealing the location of a radio tower based on health concerns are not reasonable grounds given the federal ruling within Safety Code 6.
“We have no responsibility for the legislation of Health Canada; our obligation is one of compliance,” he said.
“We have proven and certified that at the Doerner property the emissions from this facility will be in excess of 500 times below that which is considered a risk. Health is not an issue. These wouldn’t be built if health was an issue.”
While councillors seemed sympathetic to the concerns of the residents, they also acknowledged the futility of stalling the process any further.
“If we want to hold this up we’ll just end up spinning our wheels and it’ll cost us money down the road in legal fees,” said Coun. Herb Neher.
“We’re just turning good money into bad money for the sake of delaying something that’s going to happen anyway.”