Around 20 people turned up for a public hearing on a proposed communications tower in Central Saanich last Wednesday night.
The public hearing was part of a process to amend the land use bylaw on a section of land that Vantreight Farms and Muir Communications plan to erect a 50m communications tower on. If the tower is to go ahead, the land needs to be rezoned from agricultural land (A1) to public utility zone (P3).
During a planning and development committee meeting on Nov. 13, council moved to direct staff to prepare the land use bylaw amendment bylaw to rezone the property. Some council members voiced their support of the tower during that meeting, commenting that it might be a good way for farmers to diversify their revenue stream.
During last Wednesday’s public hearing, many of the speakers on the bylaw were in opposition to the tower being erected on Vantreight land. Reasons for the objections included concerns around the health risks associated with radio frequency (RF) energy from communications devices and transmitters being in the municipality.
Health Canada’s guidelines state that RF energy must fall into certain guidelines as stated in Safety Code 6, but some residents, including Norm Ryder, who submitted thousands of pages of information on the negative effects of communications devices and their associated radiation to council and staff, said that they felt codes set out by the Canadian government are too lax.
Other community members and neighbors to the Central Saanich Road Vantreight property spoke on the matter of how the new structure might lower their property value or compromise their view.
“We would quite literally be living in the shadow of this thing,” said Central Saanich resident, Sylvia Harrison, who lives on Mt. St. Michael Road which backs on to the Vantreight property in question.
“This would be a step closer to industrialization on Vantreight property and a step away from farming,” she added.
The proposed tower is 50m tall (164 feet) and would be built within a 30m by 30m (98 foot square) compound in the southeastern quadrant of the property. It would house various telecommunication companies’ equipment including equipment from Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST).
According to Ian Vantreight, their farm has housed communications equipment for the last two decades.
“Our land has already housed telecommunications antennas on some of our existing buildings for over 20 years,” he said, adding that the tower would serve to formalize a service they are currently providing, as well as give the family another opportunity to seek revenue because the tower has the potential house more devices than those already slotted for it.
“On the subject of health hazards, we’re relying on government officials’ outlined regulations on RF equipment and we will be complying with that,” said Al Muir, who has been in the communications tower business since the 1960’s.
It is expected Central Saanich council will make a decision on the tower in the upcoming month.