Any residence within a radius of 300 metres of any proposed new cell tower in North Cowichan would have to be consulted before council would consider allowing it to be constructed, staff proposed at the council meeting on June 16 as part of new policy that is being developed.
Staff are also suggesting that all applications for cell towers in the municipality would have to be determined by council, they would all require a public meeting, there would be some exemption criteria for additions to existing structures less than 15 meters, and there would be an application fee of $1,000.
Planning manager Chris Osborne reminded council that regulatory decisions on siting radio antennas and towers rest at the federal level, with the Innovations, Science and Economic Development Ministry having exclusive jurisdiction.
But he said that, typically, considerable weight appears to be given by ISED to municipal viewpoints in siting towers and antennas.
“ISED makes it clear that proponents must follow a municipality’s process, to the extent that it is reasonable and proportionate, and is therefore likely to deny approval to any proponents who have not respected or adequately engaged with that local process,” Osborne said.
The issue of a lack of a policy governing the placement of cell towers in North Cowichan was raised in April after Rogers Communication applied to place two new cell towers on municipal land in North Cowichan to meet the growing needs in the community.
Rogers informed council in February that it is proposing to place a cell tower in Evans Park, near the ball field, and one other on Mount Tzouhalem, close to the water reservoir near Kaspa Road, to make wireless service in those two areas more dependable.
But, after an outcry from many in both communities against the towers, council decided to inform Rogers it would not give a green light to the projects proceeding.
Coun. Kate Marsh then developed an outline for a new cell tower policy in May for staff and council to consider, which included that adequate public consultation should be carried out by the proponents with all property owners and residents potentially affected by any proposed towers to a minimum 1,000-metre radius, and the proponent would be mandated to hold a public meeting and to include the details of the meeting in the written notice to properties.
In a report, Osborne said Marsh’s suggestion of a consultation radius of 1,000-metres could risk being considered by ISED to be unduly onerous.
Marsh pointed out that Osborne’s report doesn’t suggest how far away from residential areas in North Cowichan cell towers would be allowed.
“That’s what started getting people upset around Evans Park and Kaspa Road because they felt the towers would be too close to them, so why was this information left out?” she asked.
Osborne said this part of the process of creating a cell tower policy is to simply pin down its procedural aspects.
“That information [and more] will be provided in detail in the next level of the process in developing the draft policy, and council will then have the opportunity to amend it prior to its adoption,” he said.
The cell tower draft policy will come back before council in a future meeting for further review before its final adoption.