Sunday, May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

Residents, Trust continue cell-tower opposition

Sign-wielding Canvasback Place residents tried to stare down an excavator as it made its way up a communications tower access road last Friday morning, but eventually let the machine pass rather than be arrested by Salt Spring RCMP.

Residents at the site were upset that work had commenced by a contractor to Rogers Communications Ltd., despite the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) restating its opposition to the project. A Feb. 14 letter was sent to Rogers from LTC chair Tim Peterson, reiterating the LTC’s reasons for rescinding a previous approval decision and advising the corporation “to indefinitely suspend any development at the proposed site.” The letter was copied to federal regulator Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

Julian Clark, a spokesperson for the Concerned Residents of Canvasback (CRoC) group, said Friday that despite the trustees being “100 per cent with us . . . the legal group within the Islands Trust don’t report to our trustees, and [they don’t] seem willing to take any action. So the residents are left here by themselves to deal with a $23-billion corporation.”

Clark said Monday that trenches were dug and the area roped off on Friday. A “no trespassing” sign was also moved away from a public trail head and closer to the construction site.

Peterson told the Driftwood that a letter with similar contents to the Rogers missive was sent to ISED on Friday. And as previously reported, he said the LTC passed a motion at its last meeting asking for Trust staff to clarify what options the Trust has, if any, to stop the current project.

“It’s my understanding that the Islands Trust doesn’t have the power to issue a stop-work order,” he noted.

Peterson said he had reached out to the western-region ISED office and hoped to have further conversations with staff there this week. Last May ISED personnel advised the LTC they did not agree with the LTC’s reasons for rescinding their previous decision. Those reasons hinge on proponents not following a draft Islands Trust model protocol for the application while claiming the protocol had been fulfilled, as well as providing “inaccurate information” and omitting other information from its application to the LTC.

But Rogers is not the only agency behind the communications tower.

Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST) Inc. operates a communication system for emergency responders throughout the Capital Regional District. CREST general manager Gordon Horth said Monday that improving communications for fire, ambulance and police services on the north-west side of the island has been a CREST priority for several years.

“The first responder community has said overwhelmingly they need this facility,” said Horth.

He said CREST first approached TELUS to use that company’s existing Channel Ridge tower that has been in place next to the proposed Rogers/CREST one for about 20 years, but was informed there was no room to add anything to that facility. Landowner Onni Group was also asked about alternate sites, said Horth, but Onni was not interested in seeing a tower installed in another area. CRoC members have publicly suggested exploring that option.

After what Horth described as “probably the most rigorous” period of public consultation CREST has ever participated in, and acquiring concurrence with the plan from the LTC in July of 2021, CREST invested $250,000 of public funds in infrastructure, which is now sitting in a warehouse.

“We could have made that investment in another community,” he said.

He said Canvasback is considered a good site because it’s adjacent to existing water and telecommunications utilities, has power, road access and tall trees that screen most of the structure, and works well from a technical point of view.

A CREST site overview document touches on the radiofrequency (RF) and health question, which is a concern of area residents. The closest property is only 42 metres from the tower, when 500 metres is the recommended minimum distance in the new Islands Trust antenna siting model protocol.

“A number of community members have inquired about whether Rogers has considered the cumulative RF impact of the TELUS and Rogers towers on the surrounding neighbourhood. For this installation, Rogers have calculated that the cumulative RF output (inclusive of the existing TELUS equipment onsite) will only be a maximum of 2.3 per cent of the allowable [Health Canada Safety Code 6] limit when measured to the nearest home.”

When asked to provide a comment about the project and construction timeline, Rogers responded by saying, “Our shared focus continues to be on expanding coverage and providing a more consistent wireless experience for first responders, residents and visitors on Salt Spring. Working with CREST, who will locate their emergency communications equipment on the tower, we looked at a number of locations and found the Channel Ridge site provides the elevation needed for better coverage and enhanced public safety.”

Horth said he expected the work would take between four and eight weeks to complete if it proceeds.

Clark said Canvasback residents will continue to picket the area and put pressure on the Islands Trust and other bodies to prevent the project from being completed, and will press for another location to be found in the area. The residents have stated in the past they are not against cell towers or improving cell service or communication for emergency responders.

“It is just unjust, and I don’t like to see things that are unjust,” he said.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. CREST should be allowed to move forward with expansion plans with Rogers on the approved site that TELUS is on (Channel Ridge).

    Unfortunately, the picketing residents are coming across as “unjust” and high-conflict people.
    TELUS has an existing tower on site for 20+ years that cannot be expanded on.

    According to lawyers opinion the residents have no basis for stopping the approved work at the site…or stopping TELUS from doing upgrades to their town with 5G. Perhaps the Islands Trust could be spending taxpayer money more wisely and come up with a solution that works for not only the residents but also the incumbent providers.

    SSI resident
    Kevin Parker

    • Kevin – Re: “Perhaps the Islands Trust could be spending taxpayer money more wisely and come up with a solution that works for not only the residents but also the incumbent providers.”

      That is precisely what the SSI LTC has done – they have proposed an alternate site to Rogers and CREST, a site that CRD Director Gary Holman (CREST is affiliated with the CRD) approves of. It is has the right elevation and location for the project, but Rogers is opposed to that site because it will cost them more to build there.

      SSI resident
      Oona McOuat

      • Explain OONA why CREST or Rogers should have to move to an alternate site when Telus is on site for 20+ years? Sounds like fear mongering 5G Deniers to me. Fair is fair if telus is allowed then this is exactly what the government is trying to improve on. If one provider has access they ALL should have access to allow FAIR competition.

        Guess what, telus has 5G at that site. Are residents going to protest telus remove and move to a different site also?

        • Hi KEVIN,
          Just saw this message now . I understand that the aging Telus tower is slated to be decommissioned within the next 5 years or so . When the Telus tower was placed at the Canvasback site around 1984 – 40 years ago – there were very few homes within a 500 metre range of the site. Those homes have all been built in the past 20 years or so. No homes were 32 metres away which is the distance between the closest property and the now operational Rogers tower. There was also not a protective covenant in place (it was instated around 2005) that prohibited any type of commercial/industrial or several-story structure from being built on Channel Ridge. Archaeologists had not yet uncovered and reported on evidence of this site having been sacred to First Nations. Lastly – the 2001 antenna siting policy – which was Salt Spring’s policy at the time of this Rogers application – was not in place when Telus built its tower. This policy had stringent requirements for any cell tower being proposed within 500 metres of places of continuous human activity. In terms of land use regulations, one could say the Telus tower was “grandfathered” in. This did not give the proponent carte blanche to build a new tower at this site. There are other places with similar elevation and in close proximity that could have worked for Rogers. The corporation, it seems, did not want to pay to have electricity extended to those sites. I have little sympathy for that given Rogers’ recent $26 billion purchase of Shaw. Clearly, Rogers could have afforded the extra expense, and likely would have gained more subscribers on the island as a result. As it is, many are cancelling their Rogers’ contracts in dismay and disgust.

  2. In response to CREST’s statement above that “Rogers have calculated that the cumulative RF output (inclusive of the existing TELUS equipment onsite) will only be a maximum of 2.3 per cent of the allowable [Health Canada Safety Code 6] limit when measured to the nearest home.”

    Any projected RFR outputs supplied by Rogers are based on computer simulation, not actual in-field measurement, and likely represent the Telus tower at the time of the initial application 3 years ago, as well as only the first antennas CREST and Rogers will put on this tower. There are several more planned. With Telus recently adding more antennas to its tower and strengthening the output of its equipment at the site, any RFR readings provided by Rogers to date are pure speculation.

    Once towers are up and running, the federal regulator leaves it up to the telecom to measure the RFR output, which is like asking the fox to guard the hen-house. There are very good reasons why our local government asks for 500 meters between antennas and places of continuous human activity. There are better sites, with similar elevation and geography, for this project. It will simply cost Rogers a bit more to build on them. Perhaps Rogers has to tighten its belt after spending $26 billion on purchasing Shaw.

    SSI Resident
    Oona McOuat

  3. “It is just unjust, and I don’t like to see things that are unjust,” I agree with this statement. It seems like a David vs. Goliath analogy may be appropriate with evident bullying.. I have been a ‘victim’ of this constant barrage of false information and wasting time being distracted by it. May common sense and real science, not corrupted by commercial propaganda, prevail for the benefit of all beings. May Saltspringers wake up to what is really happening here, the bigger picture.

  4. When you take into consideration that the team who is in opposition to putting a powerful cell tower right next to a subdivision, has come up with better options that are further away from people’s homes … it just makes CREST look cheap and uncaring for not taking this more seriously.

  5. I would really like to know how many of the Trust Comittee, or in fact, anyone who uses cell phones, are in opposition to the tower. If they are, they should realise that the amount of RF energy transmitted by their phone and that of tower, would be compared to using the output of lightbulbs as an example. The energy from the tower would be comparable to less than a one watt bulb where a cell phone would be equliviant to a one hundred watt bulb when the cell phone is touching the head. If anyone is worried about RF energy, don’t use your cell phone period.

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