One cell tower’s rejection is another’s approval

Sooke council backs plan for Otter Road telecommunications tower

In a little over two months, Sooke council has gone from rejecting a proposed Freedom Mobile telecommunications tower in one part of the district to approving another.

Mayor Maja Tait broke a 3-3 tie on Monday to support the installation of a 50-metre tower in the 2600 block of Otter Point Road.

“It’s challenging because I know some of our residents don’t want to host this, but I also know a lot depend on the service,” she said.

In July, council rejected a similar bid to construct a telecommunications tower in the in the 5000 block of Sooke Road.

Freedom Mobile is launching 3G and LTE networks in multiple markets across Canada.

Freedom is required by Industry Canada to consult with land use authorities in siting new wireless mobile base station tower locations. Industry Canada makes the decision whether the telecommunications tower will be built.

Most neighbours on Sooke Road and Otter Point Road oppose the applications, citing health, aesthetics, and property value declines. They also presented petitions against the tower’s construction to council.

“None of this is within our statutory authority. It’s not like we adopted a bylaw or a policy that’s going to affect somebody. It’s just going through an input process. The decision-making authority is beyond us,” said Coun. Rick Kasper.

Kasper and Tait rejected the Sooke Road tower mainly due to aesthetics, and both said they take each application on a site-by-site basis. Most councillors backed Health Canada data on the health safety of cell towers, despite residents’ concerns of health risks.

Kasper said when the Otter Point plan was brought to council, Freedom Mobile complied with the demands of council.

In a report to council, Freedom Mobile said the Otter Point telecommunications tower is 1,000 per cent lower than the prescribed limits set by Health Canada for exposure, and the sight lines of the tower are “significantly minimized” by existing tree cover.

“The addition of the proposed site and launch of Freedom Mobile’s network in the Greater Victoria area (including Sooke) will provide an additional choice for wireless consumers with access to lower rates,” the report stated.

Coun. Kerrie Reay was the only member of council to back both telecommunication towers.

In researching data, Reay said websites from the Canadian Cancer Society to the World Health Organization suggested health concerns were minimal.

“I’m trying to step back and take the emotional side out of it,” she said. “I just feel with everything I’ve read and all the various sites … I do support what’s requested to council by Freedom Mobility.”

klaird@blackpress.ca