Dysart council has agreed to write a letter of concurrence in support of a new cell tower within its boundaries.
Rogers Communications wants to erect a 90-metre cellphone tower at Glamorgan Road and Minnicock Lake Road. Company officials updated council on its consultation process as part of the project during the Aug. 23 public meeting.
Thirteen property owners who are situated at least 500-metres of the site were notified by the company. Christian Lee, a site acquisition specialist working with Rogers, said they’re limited in where they can locate towers.
“It isn’t one tower to serve a specific area,” Lee said. “Each tower is part of a large network. This is one piece in a 600-piece puzzle.”
Often, an area’s geology isn’t conducive to a communications tower. And, as they’re relay towers, each site has to be within a specific proximity of another tower. And, of course, some land owners may be reluctant to enter into a lease agreement to accommodate a tower.
“We have no Crown land and very little Dysart-owned land, so I suspect that most of the locations they are looking at are private property,” said Mayor Andrea Roberts.
Eric Belchamber, a site acquisition specialist with Rogers, wrote in a letter to council that some area residents expressed support, citing the needed service improvements. There was also a small group of “very vocal and passionate” residents who strongly opposed the proposal.
“The opposition was largely based on concerns that are specifically deemed not relevant for the purposes of public consultation, such as the merits of Canada’s Safety Code 6 guidelines, perceived impacts to property values, and visual amenity. There were also some concerns about tower lighting and impacts to the environment, which were addressed.”
Safety Code 6 sets safety limits for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
“Rogers feels that the proposed site is well located to provide improved wireless voice and data services in the targeted area,” Belchamber wrote. “The proposed site is also situated and designed so as to have minimal impact on surrounding land uses.
The proposed tower is part of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) Cell Gap Project. Council was also briefed on those plans to upgrade as many as 300 existing towers to support 4G and 5G phone services.
The Cell Gap Project will have about 265 new sites will be constructed over the next three to four years.
So far, 195 towers have been upgraded. All work is slated to be done by 2025 and it will meet or exceed the project’s coverage goals, said Lisa Severson, EORN’s communications director.
“This is an interconnected network and is designed for the region,” she said. “It’s not as if it’s just building a tower and they’re independent. It’s an entire network we’re building across the region.”
The project aims to bridge cell and internet gaps through 50,000 square kilometres. That’s about the size of Nova Scotia, Severson said.
She anticipates 20 new towers and upgrades to 300 existing sites in 2022.
Filling the cell coverage gaps will improve public safety through better connectivity to 911 service. New towers allow for future deployment of fixed wireless and the introduction of new technology.
It will increase the number of people able to use the internet at the same time without incurring disruptions. That will also lead to an improved tourism experience.
Severson said it’s quite common for visitors taking photos to try to upload those images to social media. The frequency of that can cause strain on the current system.
“There’s just too many people trying to use the network,” she said.
James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo