North Cowichan may soon develop a policy on cell towers in the municipality. (File photo)

North Cowichan may soon develop a policy on cell towers in the municipality. (File photo)

North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

Cell tower policy may be developed soon

North Cowichan will defer any discussions around where cell towers should be located in the municipality until Rogers Communications’ public consultation process on the proposed placement of two towers is completed.

Coun. Kate Marsh made a motion at the committee of the whole meeting on April 13 that council instruct staff to offer Rogers an alternate location that is owned by North Cowichan for the communication company’s proposed cell tower on Mount Tzouhalem that is at least 500 metres from homes.

Rogers had informed council at a meeting in February that it is proposing placing a new cell tower in Evans Park, near the ball field, and another on Mount Tzouhalem, close to the water reservoir near Kaspa Road, to make wireless service in those two areas more dependable.

Related story: North Cowichan considering two new cell towers

Rogers said it intended to hold public consultations with the neighbours of the sites, which are still ongoing, before making a formal application to the municipality to lease them.

But the wireless technology has raised health concerns, and many neighbours of the cell tower proposed for Mount Tzouhalem have contacted North Cowichan urging the municipality to have Rogers place the tower far away from their homes, or not allow it in their area at all.

Marsh said at the meeting on April 6 that other jurisdictions in the province, including the Okanagan, have policies with stringent criteria in regards to the placement of cell towers due to the health concerns, and some research recommends that the towers shouldn’t be any closer to homes than one kilometre.

But Mayor Al Siebring said passing the motion would short circuit the process that Rogers is currently engaged in.

He said if the motion is approved, North Cowichan would be saying to Rogers that, no matter what the outcome of the company’s process is, council will not approve their proposed location.

“That’s fair enough, but if council’s desire is not to approve the location, the appropriate time to do that is when Rogers completes its public consultations, ” Siebring said.

“The second reason I feel it is premature is that it assumes council will approve of some kind of lease for Rogers as the motion says to instruct staff to offer Rogers another location 500 metres from homes. Do we know what that means? Would an alternate location mean we would have to cut down a bunch of trees to make a clearing for the tower? Would council and the community be OK with that? This is a discussion that must follow the process and I think we should postpone this motion and let the process carry through.”

But Coun. Rosalie Sawrie said she has issues with the process, and making conditions for one tower while two are proposed doesn’t seem right to her.

“We haven’t even addressed the fact that if we require cell towers to be 500 metres from homes on Mount Tzouhalem, how about the one in Evans Park, which is in a high-density area?” she asked.

“I don’t think it’s fair to make a one-off decision on one tower and not the other. We need an actual policy on where we will allow cell towers to be located.”

Coun. Christopher Justice agreed and suggested North Cowichan could use the time that Rogers is consulting with the public to develop a policy on cell towers.

“This is our future, in one form or another, and we’ll have to deal with this many times in the future,” he said.

“I support not making the decision (on Marsh’s motion) now, but use the time to develop a policy.”

The committee of the whole decided to postpone the motion, and while a motion for North Cowichan to consider developing a policy on cell towers at the meeting wasn’t brought forth, it’s expected it will be made at a future meeting.

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