Concern for future of other proposed tower installations
By Vivian Collings
Rogers and Fido customers near Minnicock Lake Road and Glamorgan Road will not receive 5G network connectivity by way of a Rogers tower following conflicting opinions by council and community members.
Dysart et al council defeated the resolution for a proposed Rogers Communications Inc. 90-metre guyed tower on private land on the north side of Minnicock Lake Road during the regular council meeting on Tuesday, July 26.
The vote finished 3-3 with Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy absent.
The Dysart et al procedural by-law states, “Except where expressly provided in statute, any question on which there is an equality of votes shall be deemed to be defeated.”
View the procedural by-law here www.dysartetal.ca/en/municipal-government/resources/By-Law-2021-53-Procedural-By-Law.pdf.
Those in favour were Mayor Andrea Roberts, Ward 5 Councillor Walt McKechnie, and Ward 1 Councillor Nancy Wood-Roberts. Those opposed were Ward 2 Councillor Larry Clark, Ward 3 Councillor Tammy Donaldson, and Ward 4 Councillor John Smith.
“I’ve been in this industry for 10 years, and never have I come across the level of angst and anger towards a project like this. It’s really unfortunate, and I think Dysart will unfortunately be left without the cell service that people could, should, and expect to have for the long-term,” said Eric Belchamber on behalf of Rogers Communications Inc.
Belchamber said Rogers is concerned that their other proposed towers in Dysart will also get turned down by council after Tuesday’s meeting.
Joanne MacDonald, a nearby resident of the proposed tower site, said she is pleased with the outcome of council’s vote but is concerned about future tower construction.
MacDonald said to the Echo, “It saddens me that a conglomerate like Rogers can attempt to destroy all that we, the residents who live within the [one kilometre] radius of this tower as well as those opposed to it who have worked so hard for, with no immediate ties to the community, would be allowed to come in and destroy our environment, property values, and way of life in the name of progress.”
The proposed tower was projected to improve cell service in the area by providing 5G connectivity as part of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) Cell Gap Project.
The proposed tower location off of Minnicock Lake Road is 230 metres from the nearest residence.
Policy 38 was adopted in 2014 “to outline the procedure to be followed by applicants wishing to establish or expand telecommunication facilities within the Corporate limits of the Municipality of Dysart et al.”
Within the policy, it is encouraged that proposed towers are located one kilometre away from nearby residences.
It is also stated in the policy that mono-pine style towers are preferred, but can only be constructed at a maximum height of 40 metres.
Belchamber said pine-style towers would not provide the necessary service.
“The line of sight is important here. A 40 metre tower would service a much smaller area, requiring four additional towers to achieve the same coverage as one 90 metre tower.”
A public information and comment session was held on June 14 by Rogers for nearby residents. A summary of residents’ concerns included worries about health, species at risk, construction traffic, lighting, the environment, proximity to residences, and impacts of property value. Residents who attended the meeting expressed disappointment by how it was run, which was corroborated by Kennedy.
Rogers representatives Belchamber and Christian Lee agreed to abide by recommendations to situate the proposed tower 60 metres from Minnicock Lake Road and to only remove vegetation that is required for construction but said they cannot move the tower one kilometre away from residences.
Councillor Clark and councillor Smith were concerned about the amount of residences within a kilometre radius of the tower site.
“It’s not one or two [residences], it’s 40 in a one kilometre radius, which means that there should’ve been additional effort by Rogers to find sites that are less contentious for neighbours,” Clark said.
Belchamber said Rogers’ awarded contract, as part of the EORN project, provides them with a limited search area.
“It doesn’t make economic sense to have a tower one kilometre away from residences. It simply won’t provide the service they expect,” Belchamber said.
Lee said improving technology means more towers are required to provide faster services, therefore the one kilometre radius from residences outlined in Policy 38 is outdated.
“As technology improves, meaning more services, faster connectivity, that kind of thing, each tower doesn’t service the same area of geography that it once did. That’s why the EORN cell gap project exists.”
Roberts said four or five other towers have been proposed in Dysart, but none will meet the requirements highlighted in Policy 38.
“That policy is so onerous and so restrictive. We won’t get any towers in Dysart. This isn’t about making a phone call to chat to your friend. This is about the way the world is going. This is about an ambulance attendant on the phone with a doctor going down Glamorgan Road, or anywhere, and having their call drop. This is extremely important,” Roberts said.
Councillor McKechnie said a telecommunications tower in Eagle Lake near his residence faced initial scrutiny, but residents are now pleased with the service.
“I think this is something that our community really needs,” he said.
Councillor Donaldson raised the question of health concerns over radiofrequency (RF) radiation from 5G networks that some residents near the proposed tower share.
Belchamber outlined the margins of Health Canada’s Safety Code 6.
“It has a 50 times margin of safety from what could potentially be harmful to humans, so there is already an enormous margin of safety built-in. The amount of RF exposure will be hundreds, if not thousands, below the allowable threshold because it is 90 metres in the air. 5G, LTE, and 4G technology all have the same RF waves. RF waves from television and radio broadcasting are similar. There is absolutely no health risk to humans whatsoever,” he said.
Health Canada’s website said 5G technology can use either the same frequencies used by current mobile devices or frequencies above 6 GHz.
Health Canada has highlighted two minor adverse effects caused by radiofrequency electric and magnetic fields, both of which only occur high above Canadian limits.
“At frequencies below 10 Mhz, peripheral nerve stimulation (a tingling sensation) can occur. The exposure limits in Safety Code 6 for frequencies below 10 Mhz are set below the level threshold at which this effect could happen. At frequencies above 100 kHz, tissue heating can occur. The exposure limits in Safety Code 6 for frequencies above 100 kHz are set below the level threshold at which this could happen.”
The motion to carry the proposed Rogers telecommunications tower was moved by Councillor McKechnie and seconded by Councillor Wood-Roberts, but was defeated in a tied vote.
“What happens to the other sites in Dysart? Are we turning them all down? We have to trust Health Canada and the work Rogers has done with looking at locations. I’m not sure what the next steps are. I’m very disheartened … We’ll be left behind in the dust. If this is the legacy this council wants to leave, that’s what it is,” said Roberts.
MacDonald is prepared to continue efforts to stop tower construction if plans go forward in the future.
“Of course we are happy with the outcome but fear the battle is not yet over,” MacDonald said. “Now we are in a wait and see situation. But, we will also continue to seek out advice and guidance on how to further stop this proposed site if need be.”
A suggestion to review Policy 38 and compare it with telecommunication policies of the Municipality of Highlands East, the Township of Minden Hills, and the Township of Algonquin Highlands was proposed by Dysart et al municipal clerk Mallory Bishop.
Belchambers said that out of close to 85 proposed telecommunications towers, only two have turned down the project, and Dysart is one of them.
Council moved on from the planning and land information item without deciding whether to revisit the proposed tower or not.