OTTAWA — A Newfoundland and Labrador MP is pleased to hear the federal government will tighten its rules concerning the placement of cell towers — a matter that attracted a lot of attention in St. John’s last fall.
Under a new Industry Canada policy announced Wednesday, wireless companies will now have to consult with communities before building new towers, no matter what their height.
“New rules will mean that citizens will be better informed and better able to engage in the decision-making about where new antennas are going to be constructed in their communities,” Industry Minister James Moore told a news conference.
Existing rules require consultation only if the towers are higher than 15 metres.
In August last year, opponents of a plan to build a cellphone tower in a St. John’s neighbourhood felt powerless against a telecom giant. Bell Mobility proposed building a 14.9-metre tall tower in Caribou Hill Park.
Residents fought the plan to erect a tower in the middle of the residential area, close to an elementary school. The company backed down, but not before the battle created animosity in the community.
St. John’s South Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary applauded the new regulations in a news release.
“The fight for Caribou Hill Park has paid off,” says Cleary (St. John’s South–Mount Pearl). “The loophole that allowed wireless companies to treat cellphone towers under 15 metres different than cellphone towers over 15 metres has been eliminated.”
But while consultation will be necessary, companies won’t have to win the approval of local residents before building a tower.
Cell service providers will only have to satisfy the concerns of municipal governments. The City of St. John’s unveiled a draft protocol for cell towers last fall recommending they be at least 150 metres from residential and apartment zones or schools and recreational facilities.
Cellphone companies wil have to build their proposed towers within three years of the consultations under the new federal regulations.
If they aren’t built within that time, the community consultation process must begin again, said Moore.
“Today, when somebody gets a permit to build a tower, there can be a great delay, an entire community can develop, and then a tower is erected and people were not aware of it,” he said.
“Now there’s going to be a timeline on that, because in the past this no limit could mean that companies could wait a very long time and residents could be surprised at the creation of a new tower in their community without their consent.”
The new rules are meant to ensure local residents are well informed and involved before decisions are made on tower locations.
The rule change does not impact the construction of radio towers on top of highrise buildings.