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.