Sooke is set to have two new cell towers installed in the near future, one by Rogers Communications and the other by Freedom Mobile.
District council considered both applications and, although local councils do not have the right to deny cell tower applications (that’s the purview of the Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada), they are charged with writing a letter of concurrence or non-concurrence.
Non-concurrence at the local level has been known to derail applications of this kind, but council voted to support both applications.
The Rogers Communications application is not so much a new cell tower as the replacement of the existing 20-meter-tall tower already on site at 2123 Otter Point Rd site to a 30-meter-tall mono-pole tower.
The second tower, proposed by Freedom Mobile Communications, is slated for installation at 6228 Sooke Rd.
That 45 -meter tower will provide improved wireless coverage to Sooke and the surrounding areas.
While both towers abide with Sooke’s official community plan and meet zoning regulations, both mobile carriers distributed notices to surrounding properties, advising them of the proposed towers. They also publicized their plans in newspaper advertisements prior to the Sept. 24 council meeting.
Even so, there was virtually no opposition voiced to the tower proposals.
Council did receive one angry letter from a resident who opposed the installation of the Roger’s tower that cited the fear that the radiation from the tower may cause cancer. A second, anonymous, missive denounced the towers as “an ugly eyesore” and claimed that there is no scientific evidence that they are safe and ended with: “I don’t care if I have no cell service! No Tower!”
Heather Oliver, speaking on behalf of Rogers, told council that this sort of opposition isn’t uncommon.
“There is a lot of misinformation on the internet, but Health Canada and a host of other organizations including the World Health Organization have studied the issue and have set the standards. These towers will be thousands of times below the acceptable standard for towers of this kind. It is a very safe technology,” she explained, citing the fact that a similar tower is located on the roof of B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
One citizen spoke to council asking if the technology was safe, and Tony St. Pierre, a candidate for council, stepped up to ask if the letter of concurrence or non-concurrence would have any impact on the final decision.
Both applications were granted a letter of concurrence and representatives of both telecommunications companies said that the application will now be in the hands of the ISED. Both companies hope to move ahead with the towers in the next few months.