Proposed cell tower raises concern

Okotoks: Business owners hope to avoid 'eyesore'

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 10:38 am

A photo simulation depicts where the proposed tower would be located at Westmount Plaza.
A photo simulation depicts where the proposed tower would be located at Westmount Plaza.
Provided by Telus

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Westmount Plaza business owners and nearby residents are taking a “not in my backyard” approach to the new Telus cell phone tower being proposed for the area.

Concerns of radiation and unsightliness were brought up in an open house May 1 at the Foothills Centennial Centre.

Anne Graham resides in Tucker Circle, and said she came to the open house to better understand any potential health risks that maybe posed from the new tower.

“My biggest concern were the microwaves, and there were other people in the area talking about that too,” she said.

Residents viewed diagrams of radiation that would come off the tower. Telus spokesperson Chris Gerritsen assured people they were in no danger.

“Health Canada is the expert on this,” Gerritsen said. “Our towers are hundreds, and often thousands, of times below what Health Canada Safety Code 6 has a threshold.”

Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 is a guideline that outlines safe limits of exposure to radiofrequency energy. The safety code was reviewed and updated this year, and states that their research shows that energy from the cell phone towers is too low to have any health impact on people.

To put it in perspective, representatives told visitors that they have a 100 per cent higher exposure rate just standing next to a common place household wireless router.

Graham said she felt her worries were reduced after hearing the information at the open house.

“They have alleviated some of my concerns,” she said. “I feel a lot more comfortable. I’m very glad that they’ve been open and they seem to be prepared without trying to pull the wool over our eyes.”

He said they’ve seen a significant demand in the area, and you need to have the towers near where people are accessing them.

“It’s like lighting a street,” he said. “If you need light on a certain part of a street it doesn’t help to put it on the other side of the city, or even just another street over.”

Some residents have expressed disapproval to town councillors, but the Town has limited input on the issue, as the towers are federally regulated by Industry Canada.

The feedback that was collected at the open house goes to Colin Gainer, planner with the Town of Okotoks, who then considers it in his report to Industry Canada.

Gainer’s job is to review the feedback and evaluate the design, similar to the approval process for any building in town, but instead of approval, the town states whether they support the plans for the tower or not. Industry Canada will take that into consideration, but ultimately they make their own decision regardless of the towns input.

“Industry Canada is the approving authority, so they can technically supersede the towns desire, but as I understand they always try to work with the municipality to try to minimize concerns,” Gainer said.

If Industry Canada does decide to move forward with the tower, construction would not begin until fall of this year at the earliest.


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