Saturday, April 20, 2024
April 20, 2024

Citizens react to signs of activity at cell-tower site

Remote cameras, “no trespassing” notices and signs of worker activity near the proposed site of a contentious communications tower have returned protesters to Channel Ridge — and the Concerned Residents of Canvasback (CRoC) to the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC). 

Last summer, a protest action blocking access to a site where Rogers wanted to build a wireless cellular communications tower jointly with the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST) agency brought the RCMP, who at one point threatened picketers with criminal charges had they continued to block the road. Since then and over the winter, residents had seen little activity at the site nor any need for physical protests, according to organizers. 

But at its meeting last Thursday, Salt Spring’s LTC directed staff to report back on options — including legal advice, if necessary — in response to what seems to be a decision by Rogers to continue development activities on the Channel Ridge site, despite the LTC’s strong objections. Those objections were laid out in a letter sent last month, in which LTC advised Rogers to “indefinitely suspend” any development at the site off Canvasback Place. In the letter, LTC chair Tim Peterson wrote that both trustees and the Capital Regional District (CRD) were interested in working with Rogers and CREST “to find a more appropriate location” for a tower. 

“Our staff are willing to work with you to locate a site that better meets the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee Antenna System Siting and Consultation Protocol, as well as your operational needs,” read the letter. “We hope you can see the merit in moving forward with an alternate site.” 

An appendix to the letter laid out an extended explanation of LTC’s rationale for having last year rescinded its 2021 statement of concurrence with Rogers’ application, including “multiple, substantive and material” areas where LTC believes Rogers did not follow its protocol. The letter stated Rogers “falsely asserted they had fulfilled the protocol, provided inaccurate information, and omitted material information in their application, which are valid reasons for rescindment of the concurrence decision.”

Rogers acknowledged receipt of the letter.  

At the proposed site Friday, a group of a dozen or so protestors said they had witnessed recent activity in and around the access point — a short roadway off Canvasback Place, which is also a right-of-way access point for the Channel Ridge trail system marked on CRD maps. In addition to the new signage, at least one piece of heavy machinery had been delivered to the site, and several spots on the ground were freshly marked with orange spray paint. 

Notably, some of the new “no trespassing” signs were positioned on and around a closed gate in front of the CRD trailhead sign and map — meaning anyone wanting to use the public trail would have to walk past the signs first. Cellular-transmitting cameras were strapped to trees adjacent to the roadway, with at least one pointing directly at the trailhead — and the CRD’s signpost marking it.  

Residents and community members who are once again picketing at the site praised the LTC for its earlier letter. CRoC representative Julian Clark called the letter “the most significant step the LTC has made in the past 18 months.” 

“When the previous LTC concurred with the siting, they invited a monster into our community,” said Clark at the meeting, “and Rogers are just that — they really don’t give a darn what authority you might have, they have it in their mind that they’re going to put this tower on that site.” 

Salt Spring resident Oona McOuat told trustees the timing of recent activity suggests it may have been in response to the LTC’s letter. 

“Rather than it just being a coincidence,” said McOuat, “I feel like they’re trying to push this along.” 

Regional planning manager Christ Hutton reminded trustees there had been a legal opinion sought and received by the previous LTC. 

“My understanding of it was that we had pretty much played our cards to the extent that we could,” said Hutton. “That’s where we were, I believe, about nine months ago. Some of the more recent developments may be something worth exploring.” 

“Notwithstanding that advice, I’d still like us to understand, and get some reporting back on what we can and can’t do at this point,” said trustee Peterson.  

The committee seemed open to the notion of acting quickly — before their next official meeting — should legal advice warrant it. Under certain circumstances, the LTC can pass a resolution without meeting to authorize an injunction or other time-sensitive action.  

Meanwhile, residents and community members said they would maintain a presence on Canvasback indefinitely to monitor ongoing activity by Rogers’ contracted crews. 

“It’s just disappointing,” said Clark. “We have a land use authority who’s stepped up and said, ‘Hey, you can’t do this, guys,’ but they’re gonna do it anyway. It’s one of Canada’s largest corporations, and they really don’t seem to care.” 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Telus already has an APPROVED cell site on the PRIVATE property in question for the last 20+ years. Are residents going to protest the removal of Telus also if they want to block Rogers building on the same APPROVED site!?

  2. These towers will not give you a better life. There is many reasons we must stop this now. Safety, addiction, need for more and more towers, fire hazards. Damage to trees and all life over 4 and 5 g radio waves , loss of freedom to siting of nature,government overeach,etc. Imagine how so many people do not want this technology yet these big companies are pushing there products on a huge scale forgetting our rights. We must wake up our governments to stop the federal government powers over this issue.

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