Council rejects Bell cellphone tower

Bonnie Belec
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Suggests company find alternative site to St. George’s Court

Coun. Tom Hann speaks at Monday’s St. John’s city council meeting. <br />— Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

People living in the Merrymeeting Road area of St. John’s who are opposed to the installation of a 20-metre telecommunications tower in their neighbourhood had their voices heard by city council.

During council’s meeting Monday, Coun. Tom Hann said the development committee has recommended to reject Bell Mobility Inc.’s proposal to install a telecommunications tower in the St. George’s Court area.

“Given the proximity to the existing residential area, the committee does not support the application and once again recommends Bell Canada investigate other alternative sites,” Hann told council.

 He said while the company has already looked at 36 sites, the committee says, “there has got to be a building where you can put a tower on top of it that will serve your purposes, so we’ve asked them to go back to the drawing board again.”

Hann explained to council that Industry Canada has the final say, as wireless communication facilities are governed by federal legislation and administered by that department.

“Any proponent who wants to build a communications tower over 15 metres must advise the municipalities. If the municipality does not approve or support the application, as we are doing with this one, then Industry Canada is advised of the decision, basically means no agreement is being met, and then either party can approach Industry Canada for a final decision,” he said, adding the department has been co-operative so far.

Coun. Frank Galgay presented the petition several weeks ago from 144 residents who expressed their concern with the proposal.

A the time, residents expressed their concern about the effect of the tower on property values in the area, as well as the possible hazards associated with it.

They also suggested an alternate site away from the neighbourhood where children, seniors, high schools and private properties should be protected.

“I had discussions to let them know council was recommending rejection of the proposal. I think it’s a wise decision on the part of council to support the people in that particular area. We have to be concerned about the residential areas in the downtown just as much as we have to be concerned about the residential areas in the suburbs of St. John’s,” Galgay said.

In the meantime, Hann told council every city in Canada is dealing with an increase in demand for telecommunications, and St. John’s is  going to have to deal with it.

“We do have a problem in this city with having one of the worst coverages (in the country).”

When the issue came before council several weeks ago, Hann said staff have been working on an indepth discussion paper for the industry and, as well as a guiding document, that can be given to the telecommunication providers to show them exactly what the city's expectations are when it comes to installation of towers and placement in the appropriate areas of the city.

He said he hopes to have the document soon.

Organizations: Industry Canada, Bell Mobility Inc., Bell Canada

Geographic location: Merrymeeting Road, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Virginia Waters
    October 23, 2012 - 15:48

    Tom Hann is wrong in his assertion that Industry Canada has the final say in approving the construction of telecommunications towers. The department can request the province approve a grant of crown land, it can buy privately owned lands, or it can expropriate private lands for that purpose. But its approval of such facilities is subject, in many cases, to the consent of municipal and/or provincial authorities. Even Industry Canada can't decide to plunk down a 15 metre tower in the middle of a subdivision simply because it wants to. And if they could, I would suggest they put it next to Tom Hann's house. ............ This absurd notion that we all have to become slaves to the whims of large corporations and government needs to be challenged by more people, more often. That idea flies in the face of people like Hann and posters like James, who tells us all we have to join the 21st century - no matter what visual or auditory pollution that imposes. It's an absolute must so Suzy doesn't drop that important call to her hairdresser while she's driving along Merrymeeting Road. .... What James doesn't acknowledge is that, when there just isn't suitable space in the preferred area for a tower, there are all kinds of technical solutions and work-arounds. The problem with those solutions is that they're not all dirt cheap like putting the tower in someone's back yard. Can't wait for next fall, so I can help un-elect some councillors like Hann and the mayor to boot.

    • Christopher Chafe
      October 24, 2012 - 07:35

      However Bell Canada CAN INFACT go to Industry Canada and file a complaint and then go through the arbitration process. Thus giving Industry Canada the FINAL SAY. Perhaps Virginia Waters, you should leave out the NDP'isms if you want to muster up support for your cause. But on a side note there is a awesome piece of land behind my property going to waste, they can put a tower there, because where I live the cell coverage sucks!

  • John
    October 23, 2012 - 11:10

    What "hazards" are they concerned about? The tower falling on someone? I assume that they are concerned about perceived health risks. Actually, the tower does not emit enough power to do any harm to humans. The bigger risk is your phone which, in the absence of suitable towers, emits higher power and becomes the real risk. The solution to reducing health risks with cell phones is to build MORE towers to ensure the phones are operating at the lowest power settings, which they do automatically when there is good signal quality.

    • fog
      October 23, 2012 - 14:12

      I find that fascinating, do you have a source for that info?

  • Art John
    October 23, 2012 - 10:50

    "Tom Hann said the development committee has recommended to reject Bell Mobility Inc.’s proposal to install a telecommunications tower...." That is the same as me voting to support a law banning global warming. Sounds good, but has no basis in reality. Council has no power to have any effect on this decision. Politicans finding a parade to jump in front of!! LOL

  • James
    October 23, 2012 - 10:14

    People need to realize the technical side of how cell towers work. You cant just place them anywhere. You have to account for propagation errors, the line to sight of nearby buildings, transmit and receive power. Why block something that will improve cell reception. The article mentions that children would be playing near this tower what if the children are playing, become seriously injured and there is no cell coverage to contract medical services. People need to get off the heritage bandwagon and join the rest of the 21st century.

  • Saucy Face
    October 23, 2012 - 09:16

    I don't live in the Merrymeeting Rd area but I have to say council did the right thing. I cannot imagine how ridiculously out of place a 15 metre high anythng would look like in that area, I wonder how Heritage Shannie voted on this ...

  • Saucy Face
    October 23, 2012 - 09:13

    I don't live in the Merrymeeting Rd area but I have to say council did the right thing. I cannot imagine how ridiculously out of place a 15 metre high anythng would look like in that area, I wonder how Heritage Shannie voted on this ...

  • Duggan
    October 23, 2012 - 08:24

    Good decision. People come first, not the corporate elites in Toronto or the Fort William building in St. John's.

    • T.Sanford
      October 23, 2012 - 09:05

      Presumably more coverage is needed? If so, in some parts of the world church towers provide a convenient location for cell tower equipment. It also provides some revenue to the churches in the form of rent. Any church towers in the desired area?

    • Chris Chafe
      October 23, 2012 - 09:50

      T.Sanford: There is no presuming we need better is widely known that St. John's and the entire province as a whole has mediocre cell coverage at best. As for your comment about church can bet dollars to doughnuts that they will still complain about that. There is just no pleasing the crowd that lives in this city.

  • fog
    October 23, 2012 - 08:16

    There are spots in the city where I get absolute terrible coverage, sometimes even no service. And yet, people like this are trying to block better service, terrible. Yeah, its not "my neighborhood", but I would be fine with a tower in my neighborhood, its just silliness these people are getting on with.