Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden wants a policy put in place so that the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) can have more say prior to senior government-regulated cellphone towers being installed in the community.
A new tower was proposed on provincially-owned land on Alpine Way by Globalive, a telecommunications company that launched cellphone service provider Wind Mobile in 2009. This drew the ire of two residents who expressed their concerns over the level of radiation a new cell tower would emit in a letter to council, presented last Tuesday (Oct. 2).
Municipalities have no jurisdiction over the installation of cell towers of a certain height, although, because the proposed tower is on provincial land, the RMOW is allowed to provide input on the land’s usage, like any other Crown land referral.
“I’d like to see (the RMOW) have some kind of policy for these things, when we do get Crown land referrals, or when we do get requests for public consultation we can say ‘Look, we’ve got a policy, we want these things located outside of viewsheds, or attached to existing hydro towers,’” said Wilhelm-Morden. “We really don’t have any idea how many more of these are going to crop up.”
Industry Canada stipulates that a telecommunications company must consult with a municipality before the installation of any cell tower higher than 15 metres. This has led to many towers around the country being erected at a height just under the minimum required for public notification, leaving Canadian citizens out of the discussion entirely.
Calgary’s city council recently launched a study to determine if they can designate cell tower sites before they go into new communities, which, if allowed, would be a first for Canadian municipalities.
The original deadline to voice any concerns to senior government regarding the Alpine tower was Friday (Oct. 12) but this was extended until Nov. 8 after a municipal request.
Wilhelm-Morden, who currently lives on Alpine Way, said the tower would be “a terrible eyesore” during last week’s council meeting. “Stick it in the forest miles away from any habitation,” she added.
The mayor has asked municipal staff to prepare a report for a Nov. 6 council meeting regarding any potential health or visual problems that the tower may pose.
Alpine resident Lisa Geddes has been one of the locals spreading the word via email about the tower and its potential health risks, asking her neighbours to make their voices heard to officials before the deadline.
“I know that we’re bombarded with radiation all throughout our homes,” she said. “You can control what’s in your house, but it just bothered me that there’s no public consultation. It seems like the municipality doesn’t have a lot of say in the matter, either.”
Geddes, who said she knows of four people on her street that suffer from cancer, wants Whistlerites to be educated on the potential dangers of long-term radiation exposure.
“I just think we need to become aware and more educated and lobby where we can, via the municipality,” she said.
Experts are divided on the health risks posed by regular exposure to cellphone towers, which emit radiofrequency electromagnetic fields that some believe are harmful. Health Canada has said that the level of radiation emitted by these towers is negligible if facilities follow federal regulations limiting human exposure to radiofrequency fields, while the World Health Organization classifies them as a possible carcinogenic.
“We aren’t scientists. I don’t even have the knowledge to look at one study compared to another study and say what’s more valid. But there seems to be enough accredited institutions putting out studies that say that the (radiation) is not good,” said Geddes.
Another recent proposal was made to senior government by Globalive to extend an existing cell tower at 7196 Lorimer Road from 15 to 37 metres.
If a tower’s height is increased by more than 25 per cent, like in this case, then public consultation is required. The consultation process has yet to occur.
Alternative sites for this tower are also being looked at, said Mike Kirkegaard, the RMOW’s manager of resort planning, and municipal staff also asked the telecommunications company for a visual impact analysis of the project.
Contact Thayer Nugent, a provincial land officer at 604-586-5410 or by email at Thayer.Nugent@gov.bc.ca to voice your concerns over the Alpine tower.
Erica Rigik, a real estate and municipal affairs manager at Globalive can be reached by phone at 604-600-0776 or email at ERigik@WindMobile.ca.