Building Permits for Communication Towers
(specifically for Ottawa, Ontario please follow this link)

Building Permits are issued by the local Land-Use Authority (LUA), typically the local municipality or township. Even though issues concerning communication towers are regulated and addressed by the federal government through Industry Canada and are technically exempted from the jurisdiction of provincial governments, Industry Canada now nevertheless requires the local LUA to play a part in the issuing of building permits.

Most municipalities require a detailed lot plan that shows the lot number as well as the precise longitude and latitude where the proposed tower is to be erected. In most cases, a geotechnical audit will be required to enable a certified engineer to design the base and anchor foundations that will then have to be submitted as certified and stamped drawings to the local Planning Department or Building Inspector. A signed letter of the actual property owner should be part of the package filed with the municipality, stating that permission is given to erect the proposed communication tower on the property as identified.

Typically, the local LUA will charge a percentage of the construction cost as fee for the building permit.

As of January 1, 2008, proponents of communication and broadcasting towers are now required to submit a copy of a building permit from the local LUA as well as a Letter of Support. This letter of concurrence/support has to state that the local LUA has no objection to the proposed tower and its height from being erected at the location identified in the building permit.

Some local LUA's may also require proof that Transport Canada has been notified regarding compliance with the civilization Aeronautical Aviation Regulations and that NavCan has been advised about the proposed tower construction.

Industry Canada

Industry Canada's new antenna siting and approval procedures entitled - CPC-2-0-03 Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems, Issue 4 are now in effect. These new procedures aim to ensure greater community consultation before new communication towers can be erected.

As part of these new precodures, a Preliminary Environmental Information And Municipal/Land-Use Consultation Attestation form must be submitted and a Radio Communication And Broadcasting Antenna Systems Attestation application has to be filed.

If the local LUA does not follow the public consultation process as required by Industry Canada, it is then the responsibility of the tower proponent(s) to ensure that all parties within the identified radius of the tower site are informed.

Furthermore, the proponent is also required to furnish proof that the proposed erection of the tower has been advertised in the local print media to ensure that everyone reading the publication has the chance to comment on the new construction project.

Federal Jurisdiction versus Provincial Authority

Broadcasting and Telecommunications are governed by federal jurisdiction subject to s.91 (1) and 92 (1) (a) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Integral parts of federally regulated undertakings are not subject to provincial legislation. The Ontario Building Code, in particular clauses (1) (c) suggests that communication towers of a height greater than 16.6 meters (55 ft) above ground level are designated structures and therefore have to be designed in accordance with part 4 of the Ontario Building Code. This appears to conflict directly with the federal jurisdiction of federal undertakings.
In a ruling of the Town of Grimsby vs. Her Majesty in right of Canada the court held that the installation of federally regulated communication towers were not subject to municipal bylaws.
In 1978 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the details of the design, dimensions and materials to be used as well as other specifications of structures that are under federal jurisdiction, are from a legislative point of view, generally taken to be matters of exclusive federal concern. (Montcalm Construction Inc. vs. Minimum Wage Commission 1978, 93 D.L.R (3d) 641 at 654.)
A more recent ruling in 1994 by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. vs. Royle & Leblanc Telecom Inc. 18 O.R. (3rd) 737 made reference to the Montcalm case and determined that  the health and safety of workers employed by companies involved in the design, construction and maintenance of telecommunication towers for federally regulated operators was also a sufficiently integral and vital part of the operation of the federal telecommunications undertaking and therefore, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act had no application to these operations.

Industry Canada is authorized under the Radiocommunications Act to approve the location of radiocommunications facilities. Details can be found in its publication Environment Process, Radio Frequency Fields and Land-Use Consultation. The three main criteria Industry Canada is concerned about relate to the following:
  • Environment
  • Land -Use
  • Health Canada's Safety Code 6
Environmental impact is usually rather limited since it concerns mostly the tower's impact on water and soil, national parks and historic sites, the impact on flora and fauna, etc. The Exclusion List Regulations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) usually include radio communication towers but nevertheless, the proponents of tower installation must submit an attestation to that effect to Industry Canada.
Land-Use: Industry Canada is supporting the consultive approach between the erectors of communication towers and the people in its vicinity most effected.
Health Canada's Safety Code 6 is concerned with the electromagnetic radiation transmitted from antennas and its effect on people. It identifies acceptable radiation levels and precautions that have to be exercised when in close proximity to excessively high radiation levels.

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