At the Monday, September 11 Regular Council meeting, Council narrowly supported the installation of a Freedom Mobile Telecommunication Tower at 2614 Otter Point Road.Three Councillors voted to issue a letter of concurrence, three were opposed, and the mayor cast the deciding vote, ultimately supporting the motion.
The motion that was ultimately passed read as follows:
THAT COUNCIL issue a letter of concurrence to Freedom Mobile and Industry Canada in relation to the proposed telecommunication tower at 2614 Otter Point Road. (Actual approved motion pending council approval of staff generated minutes.)
With the audience chamber unusually packed, this meeting saw over 40 members of the public in attendance (normally there are two or three). Not all were here for this matter: there were a number of rezoning hearings also happening that day. But as expected, a number of the public did get up and address the issue. Also as expected, each and every resident who spoke was against the cell tower; two non-residents spoke in favour of the project, both affiliated with the project.
In favour: Public input began and ended with the project proponents, two of them. They emphasized affordability and expanded consumer options, and stated that emissions were well within Health Canada guidelines (a thousand times below the regulated standard). The landscape of Sooke provided challenges with the location of the tower, and this was the most feasible option. Because Freedom operates on a higher frequency, the towers have to be closer to the people they service. Ultimately, it was good for the greater community.
Opposed: Between the two Freedom Mobile were statements from six residents from the affected area. There were concerns about health and property values. One person observed that Freedom Mobility never once consulted the neighbours. Others noted that current cell reception was just fine. Two called for a bylaw change to better protect residents from having something this close to their homes. Collectively, they didn’t object to the cell tower per se (as one noted, they are not Neanderthals and they are indeed plugged in); mostly they opposed the placement in such close proximity to the homes. Most notable, perhaps, was that they stated all (except one) of the residents were united in their opposition to the installation of the tower.
In Favour: Councillors Rick Kasper, Kerrie Reay and Bev Berger supported a letter of concurrence from the District of Sooke.
- Kasper noted that council cannot stop a tower from being installed. “Our lawyers have said it,” he said, adding that he is not a scientist, so he cannot stand against the standards set by Health Canada. He sympathized with people’s views, but he won’t subscribe to alarmist statements. These towers have become a sad reality, but it’s what the overall public has been demanding.
- Reay said she already spoke at length at a previous meeting on this matter. She comes from an evidence based background and there was nothing in official documentation to support health concerns. She will be supporting the motion.
- Berger said she has done a lot of research on the matter. She supported Health Canada’s statements and findings, and because she’s not a scientist she felt she couldn’t argue that. She had to trust that the government is representing the interest of the people.
Opposed: Councillors Ebony Logins, Kevin Pearson and Brenda Parkinson opposed the motion.
- Logins didn’t like hearing the argument that they don’t have a voice as a council. They have a voice, she argued, whether they are listened to or not. Logins felt there was no moral way that council unanimously support this. The community had spoken, and those who spoke were opposed. Ultimately, she pooh-poohed the motion that Council cannot argue with the Federal government. That’s our job, she said wrapping up.
- Pearson cautioned against mixing emotion with decision making, saying that that mix all-too-often results in poor decisions. How far do we trust, he asked, and when do we question? The neighbours have said they don’t want it, and he wants to listen to the neighbours. He does trust other levels of government, but ultimately he opted not to support concurrence.
- Parkinson said they are here to support the people. She doesn’t understand why they have to give concurrence for something over which they have no influence anyway.
The swing vote
Mayor Tait noted that Freedom Mobility is a new provider, and Freedom was looking to install cell towers to provide a competitive option. In some ways we have a voice, she said, and this is why we are here. Freedom Mobile may or may not progress, even if they don’t receive concurrence from Council. We are in a digital, wireless, mobile age, Tait continued, and we want our technology to work. This is a business that is looking to provide a reliable and competitive alternative. We can’t stop technology. Metchosin has a zero growth philosophy (Tait was responding to an earlier comment that Metchosin only had three cell towers and were not allowing any more). We’re at 13,000 and growing, she noted, with the expectation to double in number over the next twenty years. Our topography is challenging here. We’re sloped and hilly.
“It’s a tough call,” she said, adding, “We do have a voice when it comes to federal matters.” Whether they listen was beyond her influence.
Mayor voted in favour. The motion carried.
About Freedom Mobility
Freedom Mobility is owned by Shaw Communications and according to this article on Wikipedia, it is Canada’s fourth-largest mobile operator. It was previously known as Wind Mobile, and after it was purchased by Shaw Communication in March of 2016, it was rebranded as Freedom Mobility.
Documentation considered by Council
- Freedom Mobile Telecommunication Tower background and staff recommendation
- Correspondence received September 8, 2017
- Corresondence re 2614 Otter Pt. Rd.
- Sooke narrowly supports Freedom Mobile cell tower on Otter Point Road
- Location of cell towers in Sooke
- Council opts for “non-concurrence” stance to Industry Canada re cell tower at 5154 Sooke Rd
- Public oppose cell towers
- Council to deliberate cell towers, development forms, and communications
- LETTER: Cell tower in your backyard may not be safe
- Cellular tower erected in the town centre
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