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Opposition to Communication Towers
Report On The Proposed Communication Tower Site at Oxtongue Lake, Ontario
 
In 2005 Alpha-Beta Communications Group Inc. was contracted to represent the views of many property owners at/near Oxtongue Lake, in the Algonquin Park area, who were opposed to the development of a communication site by Bell Canada. Below is part of the report that was submitted, starting with a quotation from the web-site of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE).

Bell Mobility Inc. is a subsidiary of Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE)
On November 2, 2004, BCE Inc. adopted an environmental policy that affirms:
 
"- our commitment to environmental protection
  - our belief that environmental protection is an integral part of doing business,  and needs to be
    managed systematically under a continuous improvement process…"
    and
"…We are committed to supporting sustainable development by integrating our business activities with environmental, social and economic responsibilities, minimizing, where we can, any negative impact these    activities may generate. In support of these principles, in 2004 we produced our first Corporate Social Responsibility Report using the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines…"
 
www.bce.ca/en/investors/reports/aif/bce/2004/#environment
 
Overview
 This report is an independent assessment of a communication tower site proposed by Bell Mobility and shown on its maps to be at  Latitude 45°- 21'- 30.4" North and Longitude 78° - 55'- 35.2" West, almost equal-distant between Highway #60 and Oxtongue  Lake. Our own findings place the actual location as marked and staked by Bell Mobility between 300-500 feet further south and much closer to the lake. The location can be identified on Plan of Survey Part of  Lot 3, Concession 10 and Part of Lot 4, Concession 10 & 11 Geographic Township of  McClintock  Municipality, The Corporation of  Township of  Algonquin Highlands, County of Haliburton Lot 4 just east of Lot 3, North of  Part 9 West of Part 11 and South of the original Road Allowance between Concession 10 & 11.
Proposed tower site on June 9, 2005

Who we are
The Alpha-Beta Communications Group Inc. www.alpha-beta.ca is a Ottawa based company specializing in wireless communication infrastructure. We develop communication sites, erect communication towers, install microwave and antenna systems and provide complete turnkey solutions. During the past 15 years, we installed communication towers in remote and rural environments, in high-density urban communities, on roof-tops of high-rise apartment buildings and in city centers.
 
Our company was founded in 1991 and has done work for various government departments and ministries such as the RCMP, Transport Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources, National Research Council, Canadian Research Council, Ontario Ministry of Health, Ontario Ministry of Transport to name but a few. We have done work for broadcasters such as the CBC, Rogers, CHUM Radio, Global TV, CKCU Ottawa, CFRA, Oldies 1310, CKTF in Quebec and others as well as cellular service providers such as Microcell, Fido, Rogers and Cantel. We also worked on towers owned by Bell and Telus, various municipal governments and federal entities.
 
Our more recent emphasis has been on the development of  high-speed wireless broadband data networks and the installation of towers and microwave links throughout Eastern Ontario. We are familiar with signal propagation, signal strength studies, site plan analysis, link budgets and microwave path  calculations. Our objective of identifying good tower sites that meet operational needs while also addressing the concern of local residents and owners of adjacent properties has been sometimes difficult
to realize. We had to learn to compromise! People, individuals, residents and neighbours are usually long-term stakeholders of the communities in which they live in. They have invested time, energy and money to build homes and lives there. We received much better co-operation from local residents once we started to consult them, identified their issues first and took their concerns seriously.
 
Our Involvement
We were contacted during the week of June 13th by residents living in the Oxtongue Lake area. The proposed erection of a communication tower near the shores of Oxtongue Lake had generated concerns among them. Some local residents felt that they were faced with a fait accompli: Apparently Bell Mobility had indicated if the 150 ft tower at the proposed site between Highway #60 and Oxtongue Lake were rejected, that they would then build a 300 ft tower with lights a few hundred feet away on Crown land.
 
Alpha-Beta indicated that it would visit the proposed tower site first to assess whether the concerns of local residents seemed justified. We concluded after a site visit that the negative impact of the proposed Bell site to the pristine park-like environment was not justified because of the ample availability of suitable Crown land less than 1 km to the west. In our view, Bell Mobility's main reason for selecting this particular site was based on its low development cost since most of the access roads, hydro lines, etc. were nearby. Our propagation studies and path calculations demonstrated clearly that the Crown land just to the West of Highway #60 has many elevated locations that would provide sound alternatives for the installation of a communication tower of the proposed 150 ft height.  A summary of our  findings, assessments and supporting documentation are enclosed and form part of this report.

Background:
Communication towers are regulated by the federal government and are the responsibility of Industry Canada as provided under the Radio Communications Act. Both proponents and opponents of radio broadcast towers have requested for years that Industry Canada provide laws and clear policies governing the development of communication sites and communication towers. To date, this has not come about. Industry Canada has, however published general guidelines in its CPC-2-0-03  Client Procedures Circular on Spectrum Management and Telecommunications Policy on June 24th 1995 called the  Environmental Process, Radiofrequency Fields and Land-Use Consultation that can be viewed on Industry Canada's web site  at http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/insmt-gst.nsf/vwapj/cpc2003e.PDF/$FILE/cpc2003e.PDF
 
Many questions remained unanswered in this publication and because of that the University of New Brunswick was commissioned to write a report titled National Antenna Tower Policy Review under the stewardship of its principal investigator, David E. Townsend, Faculty of Law. The resultant analysis was submitted to Industry Canada on December 6, 2004 and can be viewed in detail at http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/insmt-gst.nsf/en/sf0701e.html. In that report, the recommendations below deal directly with community consultation. Oxtongue Lake area residents felt, that Bell Mobility did not consult them but rather, informed them of its decision to locate the tower near Oxtongue lake when instructed to do so by the local land-use authority. Based on information communicated by the property owner on whose land the tower is to be erected, Bell Mobility has already signed a lease agreement for the land before engaging in any public consultation.
Proposed tower site on June 9, 2005
"Recommendation 2:  That Industry Canada should ensure that the  proponents of  significant antenna structures be required to consult  directly with the citizens who may be the most directly impacted by  the establishment or modification of the structures.

Recommendation 8:
That all land-use consultation policies should provide a framework  for a dispute resolution process. In particular, the land-use authority should be given the opportunity to reply to the submission tendered to Industry Canada by the antenna proponent. Any new consultation policies should give Industry Canada a more formal  and active role in circumstances where local consultations  reach an impasse.

Recommendation 9:
That Industry Canada should create a counterpart document to CPC-2-0-03 for use by land-use authorities and citizens. This document should explain antenna-siting issues and Industry Canada's consultation processes from a local perspective.

Recommendation 24:
  That when Industry Canada imposes notice obligations upon antenna proponents, as a first step to land-use or public consultations, that the antenna proponent be required to provide basic details within the notice about the plans for the marking and lighting of the antenna tower or other supporting structure.

Recommendation 30:
  That land-use planners work with wireless network service providers to establish local planning policies that identify and designate local areas suitable for the siting of multiple antenna facilities and adopt planning policies (such as fast-track approvals) that provide incentives for service providers to locate there"
This report, currently reviewed by Industry Canada, makes 34 major recommendations and focuses on 6 policy issues, many of them dealing directly with the process of land-use consultation. In the meantime,  the Environmental Process, Radiofrequency Fields and Land-Use Consultation Circular provides directives.
Spectrum Management and Telecommunications
National Antenna Tower Policy Review

What's New (Updated January 2011)

Guide to Assist Land-use Authorities in Developing Antenna Siting Protocols
Issue 1, January 2008
(Released: December 14, 2007)

CPC-2-0-03 - Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems
Issue 4, June 2007

Background Information

Report on the National Antenna Tower Policy Review
December 2004

Public Input Invited for Antenna Towers Consultation
News Release, September 16, 2003

Terms of Reference: National Antenna Tower Advisory Committee

Minister Announces National Antenna Tower Advisory Committee
News Release, March 28, 2003

Minister Announces National Antenna Tower Policy Review
News Release, October 31, 2002

Industry Canada Reference Documents

Antenna Structures Home Page

Industry Canada And New Policy Initiatives
Because of the lack of clear policies and laws regulating the erection of broadcast towers, Industry Canada has the final say in this matter. Its decision might be arbitrary or governed by other interests,  but because the regulation of communication towers is a federal undertaking and enforced by Industry Canada, it does not have to entertain any appeals.
 
A well known professor at the University of Victoria, Rod Dobell was asked in 2002 to submit his findings about the broadcasting towers in British Columbia's Triangle Mountain. The erection of those towers generated much controversy and the Dobell Report  identified clearly the lack of binding policies that would and should govern the installation of communication towers.
 
"Industry Minister Releases Third Party Review of Triangle Mountain Antenna Towers Siting Process
OTTAWA, February 6, 2003 - Industry Minister Allan Rock today released a report by Professor Rodney Dobell, who was commissioned to review the process of authorization of broadcast towers on Triangle Mountain near Colwood, British Columbia. Read the report here
"
 

 An excerpt from Industry Canada's summary of the Dobell report stated:
 
"3. Installation by Rogers AT&T Wireless of cellular telephone antennas in advance of securing a license(s): Professor Dobell concluded that, "In the present case, since the company followed customary practice and installed equipment during final construction of a fully authorized structure, with no requirement either for zoning variance or building permits, I see no failure in Industry Canada's processes here. But one can see a need for greater clarity in the regulatory authority in this respect, and perhaps a need for greater notice and scrutiny in advance of any authority being granted for such installations."
 
The former Minister of Industry Canada, the Honourable Allen Rock recognized back in 2001 that the site selection process for communication towers was totally out-dated and almost arbitrary. This led to the subsequent establishment of the National Antenna Tower Policy Review  that was then undertaken by the University of New Brunswick in March 2003.
 
This review was lengthy, thorough and comprehensive. Proponents, opponents, private citizen, broadcasters, various governments and departments, etc. were asked for feedback and input. The Federation Of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) was also an active participant. It represented the view of a land-use authority that effectively had no power regarding the location of proposed communication sites since Industry Canada's "policies" where ambiguous at best and favoured the interest of site developers. http://fcm.ca/english/documents/antennaSub.html
 
In its submission to the National Antenna Tower Policy Review, the Federation Of Canadian Municipalities also stated that:
 -The resolution of disputes over antenna locations must be conducted in a transparent manner, consider citizen input, and respect the constitutionally valid processes of municipal governments. Unilateral decisions by Industry Canada are unacceptable and in certain circumstances could be unconstitutional;
 
 -Industry Canada must develop a protocol to ensure that telecommunications companies work with individual municipalities in the development of site plan arrangements for the locating and construction of antenna towers."
 Municipal Governments try to manage city and property development through zoning bylaws and site plans. This is a consultative approach where the input from affected members of the community is analyzed should a proposed development be outside its normal, approved parameters. As a rule, the varying interests are then balanced and evaluated before council makes a decision. Please see Attachment IV for additional comments.
 
Oxtongue Lake
This is a small, rural community with cottages and all-year residential homes located 9 km south-west of the western entrance to Algonquin Park, just east of Highway #60 and surrounded by Crown land. There the gentle, rolling hills are wooded with a mixed forest of coniferous and hardwood trees, small lakes and rivers and stretch north to Algonquin Park and beyond. The administrative seat is in Minden, Ontario where the municipality of Algonquin Highlands www.algonquinhighlands.ca  manages local concerns.
 
Site Acquisition - The Process
 
 1. Environmental Process, Radiofrequency Fields and Land-Use Consultation
 
    According to CPC-2-0-03, Industry Canada requires developer of  antenna towers to comply with the following:
 
  • Identify the precise locations where such towers are planned to be erected;
  • Identify and/or study whether or not the proposed antenna placement and effective radiated power from same is within save exposure limits and in compliance with Health Canada's Safety Code 6;
  • Consult with the local land-use authority;
  • Submit an attestation that support from the appropriate land-use authority has been obtained or advise Industry Canada that such support was denied. Industry Canada may then provide directives on how the issues can be dealt with otherwise;
 
2.Transport Canada and Local Airport Authorities
 
 Advise Transport Canada by submitting TP83, the Standards Obstruction Markings - Aeronautical Obstruction Clearance Form of your proposed tower. Based on their analysis of terrain, height of tower, proximity to airports and other relevant consideration a directive will be issued stipulating the kind of daytime and night time markings that will have to be employed. This can range from no specific requirements to painting towers in international orange/white, red lights, red flashing beacons, white strobe lights or a combination thereof.  If within 6 km of a local airport,  consult with the governing authorities there to ensure that any potential concerns could be addressed.

Reconstruction of events at Oxtongue Lake

Bell Mobility identified a need for a new cell site; Bell Mobility studied topographical maps to identify possible tower locations that would ensure signal coverage in the desired areas; Thereafter, the selection of tower locations are typically governed by:

  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Elevated terrain
  • Ease of access
  • Existing infrastructure such as access roads and hydro
  • Acquisition period
  • Support from local land-use authorities
  • Opposition of local stakeholders
  • Other
In the spring of 2004, Bell Mobility identified that the currently proposed tower location near Latitude 45°- 21'- 30.4" North and Longitude 78°- 55'- 35.2" West, just 308 meters west of Oxtongue Lake would meet their requirements best. This location on top of a wooded ridge had an existing access road already nearby. A road extension of another 400-800 feet would be required, hydro was available and the conditions were perfect to develop a relatively inexpensive site. Hardly any of the high-cost infrastructure upgrades were needed and signal coverage could be obtained with a shorter and much cheaper tower.
 
During the summer of 2004, Bell Mobility contacted the property owner of the newly identified site and entered into discussions regarding a lease agreement for a new communications site.
 
In May 2005, about one year later, the local Ratepayers received a letter informing them of a meeting at the Oxtongue Community Center where Bell Mobility would advise the community of its plan to erect a cell tower; This meeting was also held in May. It was not a structured event but rather an exhibition of photographs and maps that Bell Mobility made available to members of the community, showing their projected impact of the development at Oxtongue Lake.
Bell Mobility had apparently already signed a lease agreement with the property owner on which the tower was to be erected.

Alpha-Beta was told that Bell Mobility had gone to the local land-use authority of Algonquin Highlands at a council meeting in February 2005 to get endorsement for the proposed land development. Apparently, council advised Bell Mobility to consult with the local residents and property owners of Oxtongue Lake first before supporting Bell Mobility's initiative and this was how the meeting with local ratepayers in May came about. Alpha-Beta checked the minutes of all council meetings this year to date but could not find any references there that Bell Mobility contacted council for their approval. http://www.algonquinhighlands.ca/admin/minutes.htm
 
Our Observations
The situation at Oxford Lake is not unique: The fewer people know about new communication towers in their neighbourhood, the greater the chance of a quick and successful completion of the project. Bell Mobility is promoting its interest just like most other large corporations do and since Industry Canada's policies are so vague and out-dated, the social and economic impact of  people most directly affected by microwave tower installations, are often ignored and forgotten.
 
1. Proponents of Cell Towers
 
First and foremost, Bell Mobility and its shareholders. The objective is to expand and improve a wireless telephone network that is based on the principle of profit; Secondary interest(s) might be from other wireless telecommunication providers such as Rogers, Telus and others, hoping to co-locate on the new tower to expand their services; Property owner(s)  that would benefit from a site-lease agreement with Bell Mobility for Right of Way, property lease, sale, rental, etc. Through-traffic on Highway #60; Default interests of various cell-phone subscribers that would now be able to use their cell phone in the new Oxtongue Lake corridor; Remote interest possible by land-use authority if the site development would generate revenue through an increase in property taxes;
 
2. Opponents of Cell Towers
 
Property owners near proposed tower sites; Property owners on Oxtongue Lake; Anyone who enjoys the remote wilderness countryside that leads north into Algonquin Park and would now be disrupted by a steel structure clearing the tree tops by about 80 feet or more on the ridge;
Peoples whose lives are directly impacted through the construction of a new cell-site that includes the clearing of forest and woodlands, the habitat of wild life, the building of roads, the installation of new hydro poles, the constrcution of communication shelters (often multiple buildings or containers if the tower is shared with other service providers), with chail-link perimeter fences, with loud burgler alarms and often bright compound lighting,
 
3. Balancing Opposing Interests
 
The west side of Oxtongue Lake, just west of Highway #60 provides a unique and easy opportunity to ensure that most parties involved and/or effected by the development of a broadcasting site can see their interest come about if  all are willing to compromise somewhat.
 
Ideally, a communication tower would not be visible from anywhere near the lake and no tower lights would be visible at night.
The topography of Crown land to the west and/or northwest of the proposed site, the other side of Highway #60 offers many suitable locations there, however access to the sites and hydro would be more expensive. Leases on Crown land for Telecom providers are easily obtained;
Placing a communication tower development in the midst of a lakeside community when other and less invasive alternatives exist is difficult to justify;

Bell Mobility assured local residents that their proposed tower would not require lights which was one of the main concern expressed by local ratepayers. In our view, Bell Mobility is in no position to make such a promise. If  the lake is or would be used as landing strip for private planes, if a health-care facility would be built in the vicinity that might require air ambulance service, then Transport Canada would most certainly invoke its mandate and require proper lighting of the tower.

At best, Transport Canada would attest that based on the current information provided by Bell Mobility, night time lighting at this time was not required at the location and height specified.

A corporation in legal terms is identified as a single entity. Should the financial interest of a single entity supercede the interest of many people and families that invested a life time building a community?

Once a tower is built, it can be upgraded both in height and in its loading capacity without needing anyone's approval; Based on Industry Canada's current policies, this issue is not even addressed in their "Guidelines". This could lead to possible large-scale development, if or when the operating parameters change or if/when additional co-locator require upgrades.
 
4. Other Alternatives
 
Move the tower 1 km westwards at 296 degrees to Lat. 45°21'42.2" North and Longitude 78°56'14.0" West. The elevation is the same and the adjacent terrain would no block the signals;

Move the tower 1.4 km to the south-west at 239 degrees to Lat. 45°21'04.8" North and Longitude 78°56'30.4" West and there, too the elevation would support a 150 ft tower. Access to those tower sites would not require the crossing of any streams or rivers and both sites are within 800 meters of highway #60.

If the tower is felt to be intrusive, erect a concealed tower. Stealth is manufacturer of different concealment types from flagpoles to artificial trees, etc. Considering that the area of Oxtongue Lake is already part of Algonquin Park's transitional landscape, a disguised tower would seem appropriate.

Conclusion
The only apparent justification for proposing the 150 ft high communication tower within a few hundred feet of private lake-side properties in a wilderness setting when there are other suitable crown-land sites available is the low development cost.Road access and hydro are within + 400-800 feet. The disadvantage is that the tower would clear the trees by 80 feet and become the dominant feature this side of the lake when only 700 feet to the west of it.The tower would be within a few hundred feet of home ownersstrongly opposed to a visible steel structure there. It is worthwhile to note, that, depending on the antenna designs, those might clear the top of the tower by another 20 feet, making the overall height of the tower with antennas 170 feet. This tower, sitting on top of a ridge, would be extremely visible - changing the solitary beauty of the Lake forever.
 
Land-use authorities provide the only possible protection communities or individuals can appeal to for support when opposing the construction and erection of broadcasting towers. We would not conceive allowing a night club to be built across an elementary school, allow industrial development in the midst of single residential zoning environments nor would we support the installation of a communication tower next to a church steeple, mosque or heritage building. We would not even allow this to happen even if no other alternate sites would exist. It should be equally inappropriate to erect a communication tower that dominates the skyline in the midst of residential lake shore properties in a rural environment, especially when other good sites are available nearby.
 
In our view, Bell Mobility's decision to locate near the shores of Oxtongue Lake is based on its own financial considerations. From a technical or engineering point of view, many other potential sites in the area are suitable for a microwave tower that would impact much less on the surrounding community.We have seen on numerous occasions how the erection of communication towers has a long-lasting negative effect on communities: It agitates people, good neighbours and friends become strangers and communities become divided. The tranquility of the landscape is altered and a once peaceful settlement has lost its appeal. These are some of the long-term effects that are often ignored and yet, they take a long time to heal.
 
Bell Mobility's selection process for the currently proposed site at Oxtongue Lake does not appear to be compatible with its own corporate philosophy that states:
 
"…We are committed to supporting sustainable development by integrating our business activities with environmental, social and economic responsibilities, minimizing, where we can, any negative impact these activities may generate…"
 
Recommendations
That Bell Mobility identify 2 other potential sites, keeping the expressed concerns of ratepayers in mind;
That Bell Mobility engages the local community in a transparent dialogue;
That a time-limited consultation period be established;
That the consultative dialogue take place before winter so as to involve also people living in summer cottages;
That concealed antenna support structures be consider where the height or the visibility of towers may give rise to strong objections;
That the members of the community identify their priorities clearly since compromises will have to be made by all sides;
That the local land-use authority assume the role of mediator, balancing the interests as expressed of the community and Bell Mobility before entertaining support for the current proposal;
That the land-use authorities establish site selection criteria and procedures should another application for a microwave tower be brought forward in future.
 
This report was submitted by the Alpha-Beta Communications Group Inc. of Ottawa, Ontario on June 27, 2005.
 
Roland Reebs
General Manager

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