BY KIRK STARRATT
Although they don’t have final say on the matter, Kings County council has given positive recommendations to five high-speed Internet tower locations proposed by Eastlink.
The only proposed tower location out of half a dozen to which council gave a negative recommendation was Victoria Harbour.
Planner Dawn Sutherland, who presented a staff report to councillors at the Tuesday, May 5 session, said Eastlink is proposing to construct six towers to bring high-speed wireless Internet service to the county by the end of 2009. The application comes as a result of the provincial Department of Economic and Rural Development’s Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative. “It’s not like the process for a development agreement or a rezoning,” Sutherland said. “It’s a public consultation process, an opportunity for the public to give input.”
The authority for approval for telecommunication facilities lies with the federal government, Industry Canada. The municipal process ties into the federal approval process as it ensures that community concerns are heard and council’s resolution for support or non-support is relayed to Industry Canada via Eastlink’s application to the federal body for approval.
Public meetings held
As part of the municipal consultation process, two public meetings were held: the first Feb. 9 in the council chambers in Kentville and the second at the Morden Community Hall April 15. The second meeting was in relation to an alternate site location for the proposed Victoria Harbour tower. The first proposed site met with public opposition.
The planning advisory committee (PAC) gave positive recommendations to support the six tower locations April 28.
Among the concerns over the first proposed site in Victoria Harbour was the proximity to a nearby organic garlic farm operated by Len Levine, who contends the radiation from the tower threatens the integrity of his product. Eastlink proposed to move the tower 620 feet to the east.
It was brought to staff’s attention at the April 28 PAC meeting that two Victoria Harbour residents had collected signatures on a petition in support of the Victoria Harbour tower. The 78 signatures were collected following the April 15 public meeting in Morden. Eastlink reviewed the addresses of the petitioners and confirmed that all civic addresses would receive coverage from the Victoria Harbour tower. This represents 51 per cent or 46 of the 89 residences and businesses that would be served by the tower.
Concerned resident Barbara Lake, who was permitted by council to speak, said the people who signed the petition in favour of the tower didn’t have enough information before adding their names. “The petition is bogus,” she said.
The county’s Community Development Services Department received two other petitions during the public consultation process: a petition with 12 signatures in opposition to the Victoria Harbour location submitted at the Feb. 9 public meeting and a petition with 43 signatures opposed to the Victoria Harbour tower and to the siting of towers within 1,000 metres of any dwelling, submitted at the April 15 public meeting.
Proposed towers within Forestry Zone
Sutherland said Industry Canada states that it’s the responsibility of the applicant to make sure their operation falls within the accepted Health Canada standard Safety Code 6, both in relation to their own telecommunication devices and the cumulative effect of all telecommunication equipment in the vicinity.
All proposed tower sites are within the Forestry Zone. Sutherland said that, in Lake George, Lakeview and Forest Home on the South Mountain, Eastlink would construct 250-foot towers emitting radiation 322,000 times lower than that allowed by Safety Code 6. In Victoria Harbour, Harbourville and White’s Corner on the North Mountain, they would build 115-foot towers emitting radiation 60,000 times lower than that allowed by Safety Code 6.
The applicant must investigate the possibility of co-locating their equipment with other equipment on existing towers, but it has been determined that there are no suitable co-location sites.
Councillor Eric Smith asked if the radiation from the tower would affect the organic status of the garlic farmer. Sutherland said there would be radiation because that’s what the signal is, but stated the farmer doesn’t intend to get certified. Sutherland asked the Canadian Organic Growers about the situation and they said the tower wouldn’t affect the farmer if he wished to be certified. Sutherland said the Canadian Standards Board’s organic agriculture committee took a similar position.
Eastlink representative Carolyn Weaver, whom council permitted to speak, said a clarification of types of radiation was needed. There is ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and the type to be generated by the Internet towers is non-ionizing and there are no known harmful effects for organic farmers.
Councillor Jim Taylor said the farmer is perhaps concerned about the proximity of the tower to his operation more so than with the tower itself. A buyer isn’t interested in purchasing the farmer’s organic garlic under these circumstances. He asked why Eastlink couldn’t move the controversial tower further to the east.
Weaver said that if the new location was shifted further, this would create overlapping coverage on one side while coverage might be dropped on the other. The towers have limited range so all the other towers, which communicate with each other and beam signals to boxes on the sides of customers’ houses, would have to be shifted if the Victoria Harbour tower is shifted any further than what is currently being proposed. “We have shifted as far as we can east,” she said.
Message is loud and clear: Atwater
Councillor Wayne Atwater said the message was loud and clear in Victoria Harbour that residents didn’t want the tower and he urged his colleagues to vote “no”. He said this is simply a business decision about money for Eastlink. “The upper level of government decides if we take another beating or we don’t take another beating,” he said.
Councillor Dick Killam said, whether or not the radiation affects the farmer’s garlic or if the garlic is exposed to radiation, the individual is being exposed psychologically. “It’s time for the municipality to side with this gentleman and challenge the power of the federal government under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said.
Sutherland said the municipality received more calls from people wondering when cell phone service would be available along the north and south mountain ranges than with questions about the high-speed Internet towers.