A petition against a new 63-metre cell tower proposed for Cowichan Bay has garnered more than 550 signatures to date.
Rogers Communications is proposing to place the tower on a 19-acre plot of private agricultural land, and a letter sent by a representative of the communications company to neighbours immediately adjacent to the property said the site was selected due to its proximity to supporting infrastructure, and because it is centrally located within the area needing Rogers’ service improvements.
“The purpose of the proposed tower is to expand Rogers’ wireless coverage in Cowichan Bay,” the letter said.
“Currently, there are no suitable existing antenna support structures or other feasible structures that can be utilized and, as a result, a new tower is required. The tower, if constructed, will provide improved wireless connectivity in terms of reliability and speed for those in the vicinity of the facility.”
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But many neighbours are taking exception to the proposed tower.
Alicia Bridge started the petition urging the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Rogers and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the federal ministry that has the final say as to whether the tower will be built or not, to “look before we leap” and immediately suspend the installation of a 5G tower in Cowichan Bay until a safer, more cost-effective and secure alternative is found.
Bridge said in the petition that the tower would be located directly adjacent to the Kingscote Trail, which is a widely used trail by children travelling to Bench Elementary School, dog walkers and the Cowichan Bay community, and is also on a flight path for Great Blue Herons.
“Community members within 189 metres of the tower were informed directly regarding the tower and now they need our support,” she said.
“Join us in halting this tower in consideration of the known and unknown adverse health effects, and safety to wildlife.”
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The Radiocommunication Act authorizes the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to give approval for the installation of cell towers and antenna systems, and regional governments do not have authority to override ISEDC’s decisions.
But ISEDC has its own guidelines that service providers must follow as part of its application process to place towers, including consultations with local residents and encouraging municipalities to get involved early in the siting process.
The public had until Oct. 30 to submit comments and questions on the proposal.
The CVRD recently adopted a cell tower policy after its board decided to support allowing a controversial 63-metre high cell tower to be built in Sahtlam.
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The policy includes a requirement for cell towers to be located more than 300 metres from schools; avoid areas affecting public views; avoid hazardous and environmentally sensitive areas; and require minimal tree removal.
Hilary Abbott, who was elected in the municipal elections last month to represent Cowichan Bay on the CVRD’s board, said he has received a lot of feedback from residents concerned about the proposed placing of the cell tower.
He said he can sense the anxiety in the community and he hopes Rogers Communication is listening to the neighbours’ concerns and work on their proposal to make it more attractive to the neighbours and residents.
“Some people who don’t live near where the tower is proposed want good service, but they wouldn’t want to deal with the infrastructure that goes with it,” Abbott said.