STEPS TO TAKE
WHEN A TOWER IS PROPOSED FOR
WHAT TO DO AND THE ORDER TO DO IT IN
by: Sharon and Denis Noble
1. Consultation Policy ? Industry Canada has stipulated that companies wishing to erect a transmission tower and transmitter(s) must first seek the approval of the land use authority and follow the suggestions of its Consultation Policy. If the land use authority does not have a policy, then Industry Canada?s default policy takes effect. Without your own Consultation Policy in place, you will wake up one morning and find a transmission tower next door. With a Consultation Policy in place, you could wake up one morning and still find a transmission tower next door...but at least you?ll know of it before it happens and have done all you can to keep it away from schools and playgrounds. There?s no power of refusal in a Consultation Policy (Not In My Back Yard, not in building approval, not in zoning). But at least it will give you time to organize community support and, hopefully, to mitigate the more egregious siting plans of telecommunication companies.
2. Consultation Bylaw ? This may be seen as overkill because Industry Canada has agreed that wireless companies are to engage with land use authorities in the siting of transmission towers, et al, but Industry Canada?s stipulations are only guidelines and often ignored by the wireless companies as well as Industry Canada itself. This bylaw would demand, with penalties in the offing if it is not, that the consultation process be followed.
3. Health Bylaw - In Canada, health is under Provincial authority, not Federal, which is why Health Canada?s Safety Code 6 is a guideline, not a law. In British Columbia we have a Community Charter in which the Province has given municipalities, among other things, responsibility for the health and well being of its citizens. If they accept that responsibility, they will indicate so by enacting a general health bylaw. I am sure the same rule exists in all the other provinces. It is the basic foundation upon which all your efforts will build. Colwood (suburb of Victoria) enacted its land use health bylaw in 1989.
4. Regulatory EMR Health Bylaw ? With your general health bylaw in place, your municipality can now enact a regulatory EMR health bylaw. A regulatory bylaw is not constrained by a grandfathering element (as is the land use health bylaw above). A regulatory health bylaw in British Columbia comes under a concurrent authority. To enact such a bylaw in British Columbia, a municipality must first present the proposed bylaw to the Minister of Health for comments. The municipality may then revise the proposed bylaw or leave it as is. Once the bylaw is enacted, a copy is deposited with the Minister. The EMR health bylaw should establish a maximum power density level of point one microwatts per square centimetre to the exterior of the nearest residence. This is the level recommended in the BioInitiative Report of 2007.
5. Regulatory EMR Nuisance Bylaw ? Here in Colwood we have an unusual situation in that we have three powerful FM transmitters smack in the centre of our neighbourhood, thirty metres from the nearest home. At this point we are attempting to enact a regulatory nuisance bylaw, but not to force the removal of the offending towers (because that might conflict with the inter-jurisdictional immunity rule in that we would be indirectly impairing a federally sanctioned enterprise). What we wish to do is force the owners of the property, under threat of severe penalty, to demand that their tenants lower the power to the point that the transmitters are no longer a nuisance (e,g garage doors opening, phones playing music, electrical appliances not working). If you have a nuisance or noise problem caused by wireless broadcasters in your community, you might take this same route.
6. Municipality-initiated Siting Plan ? the reason that a municipality acts to control the siting of transmitters must be to protect the health and well-being of its residents. That is the intent of the initiatives listed above. It is not to protect property values or to respond to aesthetic complaints. While these are indeed legitimate concerns, there is little or no legislative basis to support such actions against a federally approved enterprise.
What the Municipality can do (and this may be the most provocative move in its repertoire) is present the wireless companies with its own siting plan. With the BioInitiative Report?s recommended level of power density in mind, and with qualified engineers to carry it out, the Municipality would establish a tight grid throughout its jurisdiction that would meet the maximum level of approved power density and the needs of the wireless industry to service its clients. The transmitters would be connected by EMR-free fibre optic cable.
The municipal siting plan would save the wireless companies the expense of laying the cable, make it unnecessary for them to negotiate with private landowners for a space for their towers, and it would allow the placement of their transmitters on public land. As for the Municipality, not only would it fulfill its Charter obligations to promote the health and well being of its residents, it would provide significant on-going income through the leasing of land and equipment to the wireless companies.
A municipal/wireless, wireless/wireless, et al, arrangement could be made with all of the particulars mentioned above taken into consideration. EMR siting bylaw.