This aerial map shows the location of a proposed cellphone tower almost 30 metres in height.

Saanich supports cell tower amidst growing concerns

Plans for a cellphone antenna nearly 30 metres high have entered their next phase after Saanich supported the proposal.

Council unanimously supported an application Oct. 23 by Freedom Mobil/Cypress Land Service Services to build the antenna some 40 metres off the Patricia Bay Highway on a property accessed off Alderly Road. The tower would be located near the Capital Regional District’s animal pound.

Saanich, however, has no approving authority. It lies with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), and Saanich considered the application as per requirements from ISED.

Partly screened by mature trees, the tower would be partially visible from the highway in both directions, said Sharon Hvozdanski, director of planning. It “would not significantly change the land use or visual character in the area,” she said.

Council approved the project after hearing from area residents concerned about the impact of the tower. While Coun. Colin Plant acknowledged these concerns, he said the applicant had consulted with the residents to find the best possible solution. Plant also noted that he had a responsibility towards the larger community.

Coun. Susan Brice said the tower will improve cellphone service in the region, which currently lacks existing antenna support structures or other feasible infrastructure that could provide the service.

Council issued its support against the backdrop of public concerns about the effects of wireless technology, and radiation.

The issue even reached the 2017 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention, when delegated passed a resolution that asked “provincial and federal governments to mandate similar public consultation requirements for the placement of microcell transmitters as per cell towers.”

Microcell transmitters are small cellular transmitters broadcasting electro-magnetic waves used for wireless communication, and appear across neighbourhood attached to power-poles.

Sherry Rideout, a concerned Saanich resident, praised UBCM’s decision. “It’s great that awareness of this issue is growing,” she said. “At the same time, I am realistic that it doesn’t guarantee action.”

More than 54 city councils in B.C. and UBCM voted in favour of a moratorium/opt out program on wireless electrical metres, she said. “We know how much impact that stand from local governments had on BC Hydro and the provincial government of the day.”

Rideout said people should be very concerned. “Electromagnetic radiation affects all living organisms at a cellular level and manifests differently depending on the individual,” she said.

Hans Parmar, a spokesperson for ISED, said microcells must undergo prior public consultation before installation.

Departmental procedures applies to all types of antenna systems, regardless of size and type of service provided, he said. “While the procedures state that some installations may be exempt from consultation, it may still be prudent for companies to do so,” he said. “Regardless of whether an exclusion applies, companies must still be able to demonstrate that they meet Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 requirements before their proposed installation is put in place.”

Health Canada said on its website that Safety Code 6 considers all peer-reviewed scientific studies. “The exposure limits in Safety Code 6 are set well below the lowest exposure level (threshold) at which any scientifically-established, adverse health effect occurs and take into account the total exposure from all sources of [radio-frequency] energy.”


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