Residents speak out against cell tower

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Okotoks: Neighbours oppose structure citing health risks, low property values

Some Okotoks residents are speaking out against a mobile communications tower proposed at Crystal Ridge Golf Club, citing negative impacts to health and property values.

Freedom Mobile, a subsidiary of Shaw Communications, has proposed to build a 40-metre monopole-type telecommunications tower at 9 Crystal Green Lane, at the entrance to Crystal Ridge Golf Club. In its information package, Freedom states the tower will provide coverage within Crystal Ridge and surrounding areas.

A public open house for the cellular tower project will be held at Crystal Ridge Golf Club on March 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Pencross condo resident Brent Forstad said a public event providing details about how the tower will look and where it will be located isn’t enough. He doesn’t want to see the tower installed outside his living room window, and wants the opportunity to fight the development.

“I’m furious at the Crystal Ridge Golf Club for even considering this project,” said Forstad. “I just think it’s a total disregard for the neighbourhood and particularly our building to place this thing where they’re proposing to place this thing.”

He said online mapping tools show the tower will be about 61 metres away from the northeast corner of the Pencross building, meaning at least 44 units at the condo will be within 100 metres of the tower.

At 40 metres high, he said the tower will be taller than the trees around it, so there won’t be much foliage to block the visual impact from his home. It will have a negative effect on property values, he said.

“I’ve read property values can be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 to 20 per cent lower if you’re in close proximity to one of these towers,” said Forstad. “Surely they could find a less damaging location than right in front of our windows.”

There is a petition circling through Pencross and nearby Crystal Ridge neighbourhoods, he said.

Some people have claimed the tower will pose health hazards, which Forstad said is a controversial issue, as some studies show there is no impact while others point to low-frequency radiation causing cancer.

According to the Government of Canada website, a small number of epidemiology studies have shown brain cancer rates may be elevated with long-term and heavy-use of cell phones, but laboratory studies and animal cancer studies have not supported the link. The greater risk comes not from radiation but from being distracted by phones, interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, and aircraft and navigation systems, it says.

“With respect to cell phone towers, as long as exposures respect the limits set in Health Canada’s guidelines, there is no scientific reason to consider cell phone towers dangerous to the public,” the website states.

Dale Turner, who also lives in Pencross, said he doubts property values will be impacted because there will always be people willing to live next to a communications tower in order to get a better signal.

His main concern is focused on the health issue. Despite studies claiming radio frequency (RF) radiation doesn’t impact health, he said there is a risk to those living near the tower.

He said the reason the science has been discounted is because it’s being done with real-world examples rather than in controlled environments. It’s important for the public to learn that RF radiation can be dangerous, he said.

“We’re all guilty – I’m talking to you on one of those machines right now – but we need to have a safe system as opposed to one that’s unregulated, unhealthy,” said Turner. “I’m not against technology, the only thing I’m against is the hidden science that exists that no one has been made aware of.”

He said he’d like to see the tower located further away from developed neighbourhoods.

Colin Gainer, senior planner for the Town of Okotoks, said RF radiation levels are controlled by Health Canada, and the Town merely looks at proposals and advises whether sites fall within its guidelines for cellular towers.

“We looked at it to verify whether there was any site constraints where we would see the need for development permit and since there wasn’t anything further on that to be required we advised if they do proceed with that location they go forward with the public consultation process,” said Gainer.

The Town looks at how tall the tower is, the type of structure being installed, the colour and appearance of the tower, what can be done as far as screening, and the possibility of co-locating with other towers. In this case, Freedom Mobile fell within the Town’s parameters, and there are no other towers within 500 metres of the proposed location, he said.

There are several other telecommunications towers in Okotoks, including one along Veterans Way at the Telus building near OK Tire, in the Town’s operations yard, near Lineham Ave. along North Railway Street, and most recently in the commercial area of Westmount, he said.

Freedom Mobile was contacted by the Western Wheel but did not respond prior to publication.

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