Rogers Communication will soon begin holding public consultations on its proposal to install two new cell towers in North Cowichan.
One of the proposed towers would be located in Evans Park, near the ball field, and the other on Mount Tzouhalem, close to the water reservoir near Kaspa Road.
At a North Cowichan council meeting on Feb. 2, Brian Gregg, from SitePath Consulting and speaking on behalf of Rogers Communication, said the communications company doesn’t have dependable wireless service in these two target areas and requires additional infrastructure to meet the increased demands of their customers.
He said the demand for better wireless service in these areas has been accentuated since the COVID-19 pandemic began as more people are working remotely from home.
Gregg said Rogers Communications wants to enter into a long-term rental agreement with the municipality for the spaces where the towers would be positioned under the terms of a licence of occupation, which would be similar to the agreements already in place for cell towers at Maple Mountain and adjacent to Fuller Lake Arena with another provider.
But Coun. Kate Marsh said North Cowichan has received a number of emails from members of the public expressing concerns about the possible health impacts of the towers.
“We received one email indicating that firefighters in the U.S. are opposed to having cell towers set up close to homes, and another email stating that 231 scientists from 43 countries think that this kind of technology at this level causes cancers,” Marsh said.
“I’d like to postpone this discussion until our next meeting. I have to know if I’ve done the research and would like to know if the industry self-monitors itself and how many metres the towers would be from homes. This requires more research, but I think it’s better to be sure.”
Mayor Al Siebring said health issues related to cell towers are regulated at the federal level, and the municipality has to trust those who are responsible for establishing the regulations.
“I’m not going to squirrel down in a multitude of websites with a multitude of different opinions on this issue,” he said.
“Opinions are like belly buttons; everybody has one. The feds regulate the standards and they are accountable.”
Gregg added that health concerns related to cell towers comes up frequently.
He said Rogers Communications, and all other carriers, must comply with Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which regulates all radio frequency-emitting infrastructure and devices.
“If there are concerns, it’s up to Health Canada to deal with it,” Gregg said.
“We have no choice but to comply with the regulations. We can demonstrate these towers will operate at a small fraction of the limits in the safety code. The only reason we’re doing this is because there is a demand here for more cell towers.”
Council voted, with Marsh opposed, for the municipality to begin negotiating the terms of the licence of occupation for the towers with Rogers Communications while the communication company proceeds with its public consultations.
Council will consider granting the licence after the public consultation process is completed and staff have prepared a report for council on the findings of the consultations.