A small group of citizens concerned about the effects of a cell phone tower planned for the Hillcrest area blocked an easement Thursday morning, complicating access for crews trying to work at the site.
“We are doing this because we do not believe people are informed about the hazards of these towers and the frequencies and electromagnetic radiation they emit,” said Jean Olsen, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 1983. “I’m concerned about the effects on my grandchildren and all the other little people who go to school and live near here and do not have a voice.”
The Rogers Communications tower is proposed to be sited on private property on 20th Avenue SE, which is owned by Don Gona.
Hillcrest Elementary school is located a few blocks away from the Gona’s acreage property.
“In an effort to bring better service to the Salmon Arm community, Rogers has been investigating the property at 2391-20th Ave. SE. The proposal has not been finalized,” says Luiza Staniec, a spokesperson for Rogers.
While the neighbours believed the cell transmitter was being installed that morning, Gona told the Observer the crews were there to check on the siting plans. Gona said the cell tower would not be a new addition to the area, but would be placed on the current BC Hydro steel tower already in the neighbourhood.
Gona attended a meeting Wednesday night regarding the erection of cell towers in Canoe and Hillcrest. He said the meeting was entirely one-sided against cell towers.
“I’ve studied this myself and from what I have read, the emissions are less than radio or TV towers. If I thought there would be any health problems from this, I wouldn’t live this close to it myself or allow it to be on my property.”
Gona has not yet made a deal with the company, he said, acknowledging that he would be compensated financially if the tower is placed on the hydro easement on his land. He would not comment as to when he might make a decision or when the proposed installation might take place.
“My neighbours have turned against me,” he said. “And if they are going to push me, I’m going to push back.”
Staniec also told the Observer it is too early in the process for Rogers to put a time frame on it.
The location of cell stations or towers is governed under federal legislation, administered by Industry Canada.
She confirms Rogers Communications will be following the Industry Canada antenna siting and approval procedures process, which does not provide for the City of Salmon Arm to give input into where cell towers are located as long as they are under 15-metres high.
This particular cell station would be under the 15-metre limit.
If higher than 15 metres, the city would be asked for input, but the authority ultimately resides with Industry Canada, not the municipality.
Olsen would like to see the city bring in its own bylaws to require due process on proposed cell tower sites.
She says the city needs to look to other places like Toronto and Collingwood, Ont., which have placed regulatory controls on the location of cell towers through bylaws.
The protesters say they are not against cell phones or cell towers, but believe there should be more consideration and consultation about where they are located.
“I’m not saying don’t bring them in, but they need to do it where it is safer, in isolated areas. This would be much better up on the side of the mountain,” said Olsen, gesturing to the back side of Mt. Ida in the background.
“This is not the right place for this,” she said.