Cell Towers: A cautionary tale

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The August 28 editorial “How to get folks to stay in the Pontiac” described the need for another permanent cell tower in Shawville. While I agree that “Wireless communications are part of life in 2013,” placement of a permanent tower should include genuine public consultation.

The August 28 editorial “How to get folks to stay in the Pontiac” described the need for another permanent cell tower in Shawville. While I agree that “Wireless communications are part of life in 2013,” placement of a permanent tower should include genuine public consultation.
This was not the case for a tower installed in Breckenridge in 2012. The company, not Bell, first got approval from municipal council to proceed with installing a tower without public consultation. When citizens objected, council complied and asked for public consultation. The company then published a notice in the Shawville Equity, not in the Pontiac Journal, which we all receive. The notice was in one official language. When pushed, the company agreed to re-publish the notice in the Pontiac Journal in both official languages. The notice listed the tower site as a lot number that many people could not locate, and included a post office box to which comments could be sent within 30 days.
The company never met with the community and did everything possible to avoid real public consultation. In fact, the company declared an “impasse” in the public consultation process and asked the federal government to intervene.
The site for the tower was on Elm Road. A number of farm-owners along Elm Road had, in recent years, formally requested approval from Quebec’s Commission for Protection of Agricultural Land (CPTAQ) to use an acre of their large farms to build homes for their children so they could help work the farms. In every case, the CPTAQ denied the requests in favour of protecting agricultural land. In the case of the tower, the federal Industry minister declared “inter-jurisdictional immunity” which allowed the tower company to avoid seeking approval from the CPTAQ to use agricultural land for industrial purposes.
The tower was built and is now part of the panoramic view known as the “Gateway to the Pontiac”. The tower is on a farm across the road, 10 metres from a site denied by the CPTAQ for residential use. It is important to note that there were other sites proposed by municipal council and by the public. There were also many offers to meet with the company to help select a mutually acceptable site for the tower.
In the case of Shawville, do you really need two towers? Why would Bell not install its equipment on the existing Rogers tower? Sharing of towers, to avoid cluttering the landscape, is encouraged by Industry Canada, the federal department responsible for telecommunications.

James Riordan
PONTIAC