Bell to meet with city about cellular tower

Andrew Robinson
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Bell Mobility says it will meet with the City of St. John’s to discuss its controversial proposal to build a cellular tower in a residential neighbourhood.

In a statement released to media, a spokesman for the telecommunications company said it plans to discuss the proposed McLoughlan Street site and “potential alternative locations as well” when it meets with the mayor and city officials this week.

“We’re still completing public consultations — we’ve heard the community feedback and are looking for a way to balance (that) with the need for enhanced coverage in St. John’s,” said the spokesman in an emailed statement.

This news follows last week’s unveiling of the city’s draft siting protocol for wireless facilities. While Industry Canada is responsible for regulating the placement of cell towers and other wireless facilities, the city hopes the siting protocol will give it a voice on such matters.

At last Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Tom Hann said the city would contact Industry Canada to voice its concerns if a proposal is found to be non-compliant with the city’s protocols.

"Note that in cases where the city does not support a proposal, it cannot prevent a proponent from ultimately gaining permission from Industry Canada to install wireless facilities," reads the draft protocol. "However, the city would expect the proponent to abandon the (installation) if the city does not concur."

At that same meeting, council unanimously approved a motion calling on Bell Mobility to back away from its plans to use the McLoughlan Street location.

According to the Bell Mobility spokesman, mobile data usage in St. John’s has grown at a rapid pace, making new cell tower sites a necessity in order to serve customer demand.

Many residents of the McLoughlan Street area have expressed concerns about the placement of the proposed cell tower, which would be approximately 100 metres from St. Mary's Elementary on Waterford Bridge Road and 20 metres from a walking trail.

Patricia Walsh-Warren is among those opposed to the placement of the cell tower on McLoughlan Street based on safety concerns regarding electromagnetic radiation.

Speaking with The Telegram Sunday, Walsh-Warren seemed to be taking news of the upcoming meeting with a grain of salt.

“They really aren’t saying they’re not going to put it (on McLoughlan Street). They just want to talk to the city about the need for a cell tower and sites (where) they can put it. We’re just really waiting to hear from Bell that they’re not putting it there. ... We’re waiting to hear something more definitive.”

Siting protocols proposed by the city include a stipulation that wireless facilities should be at least 150 metres from residential and apartment zones or schools and recreational facilties.

Ward 4 Coun. Bruce Tilley introduced a friendly amendment at last Monday’s council meeting calling for that buffer to be increased to 200 metres. He has fielded a lot of complaints about the proposed cell tower.

As of last Monday’s meeting, Bell Mobility had not filed an application with the city concerning the McLoughlan Street tower, which would have a height of 14.9 metres. Industry Canada does not require companies to consult with communities for antenna systems that are less than 15 metres in height.

Bell Mobility did hold a public information session last month in St. John’s about the McLoughlan Street proposal.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Industry Canada, Bell Mobility

Geographic location: McLoughlan Street, Waterford Bridge Road

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