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GUELPH—When it comes to decisions on where telecommunications towers are located, Guelph’s federal representative is continuing to push for local authority.
This week, MP Frank Valeriote will table a second Guelph-based petition related to cellphone towers, this one about a proposed Bell tower near the intersection of Starwood Drive and Grange Road on the city’s east side. As it stands now, decisions on tower locations rest with Industry Canada.
Like a previous petition asking the federal government not to approve a cell tower near 987 Gordon St., the one related to Starwood and Grange calls on Industry Canada not to approve the location. The petition also asks that local councils be allowed to make their own decisions about tower sites without being overruled.
Residents in both the south and east ends have raised concerns about cell towers being erected close to residences, citing studies that have found an array of health risks linked to microwave emissions from the towers. They have pushed for community consultation prior to decisions on tower locations being made.
In the spring, Valeriote presented the Gordon Street petition to the parliamentary clerk, but in the interim the site was approved. He said in an interview Wednesday that then Industry Minister Christian Paradis made a commitment to further investigate the issue and “develop a better protocol in permitting the participation of local residents in the decision-making power.”
Valeriote plans to approach new Industry Minister James Moore and further advocate for local decision-making.
“My goal here is to build momentum and raise the profile of the seriousness of the issue, and ask the minister to create guidelines that provide a better opportunity for Canadians to object to the installation of a tower, because these things are being built indiscriminately in communities across Canada,” Valeriote said.
He plans to table the Starwood/Grange petition this week in the House of Commons. While he submitted the 987 Gordon St. petition to the clerk in the spring, the opportunity to table it in the House only came this week.
Valeriote said even though the Gordon location was approved, citizens still deserve to have their voices heard in Parliament. Those voices contribute to building engagement and momentum on the issue of local decision-making.
“I agree that local councils should be able to, through land use bylaws, determine where these towers are located,” Valeriote said, adding he will contact the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to see if that organization will get involved in the issue.
In late 2012, the City of Guelph’s planning and building, engineering and environment committee voted unanimously to object to the proposed cell tower in the south end.
Councillor Leanne Piper said previously residents have valid concerns about the potential health impacts of cellphone towers, and that the city has a policy on telecommunications towers designed to protect residents.
On Wednesday, Piper said Valeriote has been a strong advocate for municipalities having a greater local voice in the location, height and public involvement in cell tower installation. She wrote in an email she supports his advocacy.
“It doesn’t make sense that Industry Canada makes the call, when the impact is local,” she said. “Municipalities are supposed to have authority for land use planning and zoning, so we should have a say in cell tower locations and height. It’s one of those areas of regulation where modern advances in technology have happened faster than regulations, which have not kept pace with public expectations.”
She added that evidence of the risk cell towers pose to “electro-sensitive residents” is compelling.
“Until we have a better understanding of the potential health risks, we have an obligation as a municipality to have our voice heard, and our due diligence would logically be to do this before, and not after, a tower is installed,” Piper wrote, adding she supports the efforts of residents to oppose construction of the tower on Gordon Street and at Grange and Starwood.