Penetanguishene cell tower put on hold, for now

Penetanguishene committee of the whole recently voted to deny a letter of concurrence for a contentious cell tower proposed to the rear of St. Ann’s Parish, to the appreciation of residents opposed to the tower.

A letter of concurrence, as explained by senior planning manager Cheyenne Zierler of Shared Tower during the meeting: “Typically, it is based on three points: one, that consultation has been completed with the land use authority; two, public consultation being completed in accordance with the ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) protocol; and three, questions and comments deemed relevant by ISED be addressed.

“It’s important to also note that there’s also a silent majority of people who do recognize that there is a need who do not necessarily come out to these meetings when they are in favour; and really the goal of consultation is to balance the preferences of the municipality with the requirements that meet the wireless network needs,” said Zierler.

Residents have been opposed since it was announced last summer as a 30-metre telecommunications tower to be located at the rear of the Knights of Columbus Hall at 17 Poyntz St. as a matter of partnership between the property owner and Shared Tower.

Zierler commented at the meeting that considerations had been made to reduce the height to 25 metres (or 80 feet) from 30 metres (100 feet), and to adjust for shrouding and lighting. That didn’t stop the deluge of opposition to continue into the meeting through open and scheduled deputations where residents reiterated their stances, citing health, electro-sensitivity, visual impact, and religious implications.

Resident Claude Moreau, a custodian of St. Ann’s who had written “if this tower is allowed to be erected, it will be like the movie ‘Poltergeist’ but worse for humanity” regarding St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Cemetery to the south, noted that 12 homes wouldn’t receive signals if the tower were erected due to the location of the parish.

“In the year 1600 (1615),” said Moreau, “Samuel de Champlain came here with the escort of the natives to put the cross on that land (Toanche site) to claim it for Christ and King. This tower is going to desecrate the church, just as much as cutting down that cross on Champlain Rd. Anyone who comes into Penetang right away knows that this is a Christian area; they see our crosses on top of the church.”

Nearly three hours later, the committee of the whole discussed the request for concurrence having heard resident concerns, proponent reasoning, as well as a letter from Steven Rebellato, Vice President of the Environmental Health Department for the Simcoe Muskoka Health District Unit that stated adverse health effects had not been found associated with radio frequency exposures at or below the limits imposed by Safety Code 6.

“Dr. Rebellato is a well-respected individual,” said section chair Coun. George Vadeboncoeur, “so I was really appreciative to see his analysis of the situation and of the health effects and whatnot as part of our information package today. It certainly provided some clarity for me; I was hearing different points of view on the health and safety perspective (from the October meeting).”

The efficiency of the vote left residents curious, prompting them to ask council during the allotted question period as to what had just happened, and if the matter was finally over. Informed that matters of the committee would be re-examined at the next formal council meeting in three weeks time, Mayor Doug Rawson told the audience that council will look at the information with fresh eyes and either ratify the decision or discuss alternate options at that time.

“This council spoke tonight and we are one voice when we leave,” said Rawson to the audience.

“I want to be clear because we didn’t do a recorded vote tonight. When it was called, the motion was carried; that recommendation will go forward to council. I’ll speak from my lens, but I know my colleagues will look at it with clean eyes next time, and if we get different input and different values, that’s the opportunity; we’d come with fresh eyes next time. I know we’ll all look at it at its own merits as we move forward.”

The request for municipal concurrence report for 17 Poyntz St., including the council information package, can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca