Councillors believe in importance of improving rural internet
A telecommunications tower proposed for Baptist Church Road continued to get pushback from a resident during the Planning and Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 1.
County staff found that the suggested location of the tower is not in accordance with the county’s Preferred Location Guidelines of the ‘Communication Tower and Communication Antenna Preferred Location Protocol (2020)’. However, they also acknowledged that this is just a preference and not a mandatory requirement.
Residents Colleen and Matthew Kelly are the neighbours of the proposed location for the tower and expressed a number of concerns to council members.
“Our main concern is the loss of property enjoyment,” Colleen Kelly said. “I am certain that there will be certain cameras put on this tower that would be a violation of our expectations of privacy within our own property guidelines and limits. This also causes concerns with our property values. We confirmed with two real estate agents that the expected reduction or resale value would be lowered by approximately 20 per cent.”
Kelly also raised concerns about noise and light pollution that the tower would cause before closing her arguments.
“I really want to reiterate the fact that we are not against infrastructure progress and we know that it is needed. But we really feel that rural farmland is not the place for it,” she said.” We feel that the approval of the project would really set an unfortunate precedent that would allow towers to go up all over rural areas in the county. Brant would no longer be seen as a haven to raise families and enjoy retirement by a comfortable landscape rather than with metal towers and flashing lights.”
The representative of the agency responsible for the application, Tracey Pillon-Abbs confirmed that there would be no cameras or noise coming from the tower, eliminating some of Kelly’s concerns. She also stated that they could look into tree planting around the compound area to improve the situation.
The location holds some environmental concerns with the surrounding land being agriculture and natural heritage.
Councillors expressed their conflict surrounding the decision, understanding that rural communities are struggling for faster internet, especially in the time of working and learning from home.
“I get two to three phone calls and emails a week about people that are very frustrated with lack of internet access,” councillor David Miller said. “It is frustrating that it was said that these don’t really belong in a rural setting yet it is the rural setting that has the ones that are lacking the internet.”
Councillor Marc Laferriere echoed councillor Miller’s comments about rural internet, recognizing that students and employees working from home are often at a disadvantage due to their lack of adequate internet service.
“We have business owners and students and others who have to utilize cell phone service in order to participate in their daily life often in safety and in terms of education,” councillor Laferriere said. “I think that our job is to support the public good and the future and this is the public good in my opinion, overall.”
After discussions, council members ultimately made a decision to defer this proposal to give the applicant an opportunity to continue to work with staff to gather additional research into alternate locations or to come within the county’s preferred protocol.
The final approval of the application is ultimately not the authority of the County of Brant. While council can decide to support the proposal or not, the final decision is made by Industry Canada.
When the applicant submits the proposal to Industry Canada, council will provide a letter of concurrence or non concurrence, stating whether or not they support the proposal