Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) members have rescinded their support for a Rogers telecommunications tower at Channel Ridge and have instructed any company in the future to follow new siting protocols.
At a March 22 LTC meeting, Salt Spring’s two Islands Trust trustees and temporary chair Dan Rogers voted to rescind the support the LTC issued last July. The vote followed a delegation of residents of the Canvasback Place neighbourhood who urged the LTC to change their original position and who have in recent months escalated their complaints about how the tower approval was handled by Rogers from the Islands Trust to the provincial level.
Rogers and the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST) tower proposal went through a federal approval process and was given what is called a “letter of concurrence” from the LTC last summer, with trustee Laura Patrick voting against. The proposed 40-metre tower was the second recent attempt by CREST, with the previous application to put a monopole at the Salt Spring Legion not supported. The tower is meant to help improve issues with coverage on the west side of Salt Spring from Vesuvius heading north.
Trustee Peter Grove, who voted in support of issuing the concurrence in July, as did LTC chair Peter Luckham, introduced the motion to rescind the concurrence and to reconsider citing any antenna system using a new antenna siting protocol adopted at a Nov. 9, 2021 meeting.
Trustee Patrick, who voted against issuing the concurrence in July, raised the issue at the end of the March 22 meeting. She asked what more could be done to get Rogers to respond to a request to meet with concerned residents, which Luckham had made in a Nov. 29 letter.
“I actually don’t have a lot of sympathy for your position,” Grove said as he introduced the motion to scrap the concurrence, referring to residents’ concerns around property values, visual aesthetics and health. He said he did not believe a second tower would affect property values, as the area has an existing Telus tower close to the planned Rogers tower. Grove said he walked around the area and couldn’t see the existing Telus tower except from a few properties, and trees had grown since residents moved into the area, providing additional camouflage.
“And lastly, the health concerns that some have raised, I can’t give that any credence because I’m tied by Health Canada,” he said.
Local governments are directed not to comment on health impacts of electro-magnetic radiation, as long as a proposed tower complies with the agency’s Safety Code 6 parameters.
“Having said that, I do believe in due process. Personally, I think we did follow due process but you didn’t think we followed due process and that’s good enough for me,” he said. “I want you to believe that due process was followed.”
Some residents living closest to the tower have organized in opposition to the LTC’s support of the cell tower and have taken their complaint to the Islands Trust’s executive committee, as well as the municipal affairs ministry and B.C. Ombudsperson. In an email to the Driftwood following the meeting, Canvasback Place resident Julian Clark countered Grove’s statements, noting that “the . . . group has never suggested the LTC rescind because of harm to property values, aesthetics or possible health issues . . . Our contention has always been that the concurrence decision was based on inaccurate and incomplete information provided during a flawed process.”
Seven residents living near the approved tower spoke at the town hall portion of the March 22 meeting, urging the LTC to rescind their approval.
“Why subject our wonderful Canvasback Place neighbourhood to a cloud of risks and anxieties by overlooking alternate population-free locations close at hand?” Les Brost asked.
Canvasback Place resident Connie Nichols-Ledger, whose property is within 43 metres of the Rogers location, presented an article from archaeology journal The Midden stating that Channel Ridge is an archaeologically significant area.
“We expect that our LTC did not confer with First Nations, nor require an archaeological assessment before providing your concurrence decision,” she said, calling on the LTC to rescind the concurrence and ask Rogers to review existing archaeological assessments and engage First Nations.
“Let the proponents know that they’re more than welcome to come back and run through the process the way it should have been run through in the first place,” said resident Julian Clark. “And whatever decision comes out of that all of us can accept, but let’s have a process that’s fair.”
The Driftwood has been in touch with Rogers and has requested information about what their plans are now that the concurrence has been rescinded. Details will be provided to readers when received.
In other LTC news, the committee approved allowing Moby’s Pub to maintain the secondary patio deck it created under temporary provincial government authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.