© 2017, Driftwood Gulf Islands Media
Cell tower plan spurs local debate
North Pender community divided by Freedom Mobile proposal
When North Pender Island resident Diane Cuthbert received a letter in the mail addressed to “property owner” with the return address to a company called Prime Site Solutions, she almost threw it out.
Luckily, a neighbour informed her that the letter contained information about a proposed cell tower site on North Pender Island. The contents were a community consultation form and indicated that Freedom Mobile planned to erect a 45-metre-tall cell tower at 1348 MacKinnon Road, next door to Cuthbert’s house.
“It’s supposed to be clearly indicated what it is, so it will not be confused as junk mail,” Cuthbert said.
She said she would have thrown away the letter and that none of her other neighbours had read it by the time she found out. Cuthbert also said she was not given the required 30 days to respond.
Determined to stave off the tower, some residents are taking the matter to local governmental bodies.
At the North Pender Island Local Trust Committee meeting on June 28, Manfred Burandt, another islander who received notice of the site in the mail, presented his issues with the cell tower location.
Burandt’s issue with the Trust was that the zoning bylaws make it so that local populations have to bear the burden of organizing around issues like these.
“The thing that disturbs me is that the Islands Trust as a whole has not developed a cell tower policy, despite the fact that many of the islands have had to fight this battle individually over and over, with some winning and some losing,” Burandt wrote in an email to the Driftwood.
In his Trust presentation he also warned of potential fire and fall hazards and a concern for the ease and monetary incentive for future additions to the tower if it is built.
Others on Pender believe the tower is safe and will be good for the island as a whole.
Jan and Milada Huk own the property in question. Jan Huk said that, according to his research, the cell tower will not be harmful to human health. Also, the tower will meet Canadian government standards, which, according to the consultation letter Cuthbert and Burandt received, are “among the most stringent in the world.”
Huk plans to build a house on the same property for his family. He wouldn’t be planning to move to the property if he thought the tower wouldn’t be safe as he would not put his 14-year-old son in danger, he said.
“Neither of the neighbours will see the towers because it will be in the forest,” he added.
For Milada and Jan Huk, the tower represents progress. The technology will attract more people to the island, which will help local business development, they said.
Cuthbert and Burandt say they aren’t against cell towers in general, but the issue is with proximity to their houses.
“If someone had said ‘You’re moving to a place with no cell service,’ I might not have moved here,” Cuthbert said. “But I am certainly against putting cell towers anywhere near people’s homes.”
Another cell tower currently exists on Pender Island near the ferry terminal. According to the consultation letter, “tenure applications were no longer accepted” on that existing tower, which is why Freedom Mobile is seeking a new site.
Freedom Mobile has informed people that it will have representatives at the next North Pender LTC meeting on July 27.
For more on this story, see the July 5, 2017 issue of the Driftwood newspaper.