Just days after it was revealed in a letter to council that Rogers Communications had proposed an alternate location for a microwave cell tower, away from Meaford's high school, which was of particular concern to some residents, Meaford's council has voted in favour of enlisting the help of the Canadian Radio-communications and Notification Service (CRINS) for handling policy and process for cell towers and their locations within the municipality.
As Todd White, Executive Director of CRINS told council on Monday April 28, “CRINS is a shared service bureau owned and operated on behalf of participating member municipalities and provincial government agencies with the mandate to inform the public on matters pertaining to radio-communications towers (such as cellular towers, amateur radio sites, broadcasting facilities, etc.), manage the public consultation process, and assist municipalities in evaluating proposed tower applications. Membership is at no cost to municipalities, but instead we obtain cost recovery through application fees to proponents to recover both CRINS-SINRC costs as well as we ensure that the costs incurred by municipalities associated with proposals are reimbursed.”
“We're not there to prevent towers, we make sure they are built in the right places," White told council during his introductory presentation.
Staff told council that outside, expert assistance would be a wise move for the municipality. Director of Planning and Building, Rob Armstrong, told council that the technical aspects of cell towers and their placement are beyond the expertise of traditional municipal employees.
Armstrong advised council that Meaford's fees and charges bylaw will be amended to reflect a $2,000 application fee for future cell tower placement applications.
The issue was first brought before council on March 24 when Meaford resident Gough Lewis addressed council as spokesperson for a delegation, and asked councillors to consider the potential health effects that could result from placement of a microwave cell tower in a residential area on Edwin Street in close proximity to Georgian Bay Secondary School.
“We are aware that our municipality does not have a policy for cell tower placement under the new federal laws. We believe a policy on cell tower placement is of the utmost importance. I ask council to do two things. First, ensure that we develop a policy on cell tower placement within the Municipality of Meaford. Secondly, I ask council to ensure that our municipal staff require the developer of Rogers Site C4272, Meaford Town, to comply with the new federal policy and Meaford’s future adopted policy. Please allow the public a chance to express their concerns on this important issue,” Lewis asked of council on March 24.
After listening to the delegates, council responded quickly with a resolution at the ready.
The concerned residents quickly organized a rally outside Meaford Hall on March 27 in support of council's resolution, and a petition was started that at last count had collected more than 700 signatures.
That petition did not go unnoticed by Rogers Communications who in a letter to council included in the April 28 meeting agenda made reference to the civilian committee and the petition they had established.
“As you are aware, a Civilian Oversight Committee petition gained traction with the general public of Meaford. Despite the large scale of public involvement, there were no new issues of concern introduced as a result of this public involvement. We note that, in the industry, this has been the experience of carriers, and why the federal protocol has evolved to limit consultation such that it does not become onerous without benefit,” Jeff McKay told council in his letter on behalf of Rogers. “With respect to the “Support Council to Move the Tower” petition, the core of citizens’ concerns relate to the perception of health risk in proximity to the Georgian Bay Secondary School facility. Unfounded allegations include misinformation such as the tower would be side-firing microwave into the school facility 24/7. The tower, in fact, broadcasts local signal using RF, of which microwave is a form, but not the frequency or technology deployed as it relates to the school. Microwave (“MW”) is a line-of-sight “beam” that is utilized for tower-to-tower communication where fibre does not yet exist; that points only at a distant tower dish target, and is neither present nor pointed at the school facility, nor does it disperse into the local environment.”
In a phone conversation with The Independent on Tuesday April 29, Lewis said that he was thrilled with the results from the actions of he and his fellow concerned citizens who wrote letters, gathered signatures, and interacted with Meaford's council in a positive, respectful manner.
“We should call this the 'Meaford way',” Lewis told The Independent referring to the manner in which a community concern was addressed with positive interactions with all levels of government concerned, “The 700 signature petition was a game changer in this case.”