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County of Brant staff to review telecommunication tower application

CouncilCounty of Brant staff to review telecommunication tower application

County of Brant councillors agreed to refer an application to County staff for a potential telecommunication tower in St. George during a Planning and Development meeting on Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

Signum Wireless Towers Inc. is looking to build the 50-metre tall self-supported telecommunication structure near the corner of East River Road and Scenic Drive (525 Scenic Drive) in St. George.

During the public meeting portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Lucas Cuff of FONTUR International Inc. (on behalf of Signum), explained that Signum is a third-party tower builder and allows for up to three carriers on one tower.

“Many telecommunication towers allow for colocation, meaning that a number of carriers may locate their services on a single tower,” said Cuff. “This allows for the reduction of tower proliferation, which means having less telecommunication towers across an area.”

Cuff explained that a tower like the one being proposed, plays a crucial role in providing cellular network coverage (allowing people to make calls, send text messages and access the internet).

“A wireless network can be thought of as a series of interconnected parts with base stations and antennas working together to create a network. When providing these services, these networks create coverage areas which provide telecommunication services, and when adequately placed, they provide continuous wireless services across an area,” he said. “…However, these networks only service a fixed number of calls and data requests. If there is an increased number of calls for instance, the network’s capacity is reduced to provide service to the closest signal. To solve these problems and to provide adequate telecommunication services, these gaps need to be filled by constructing new telecommunication towers.”

Cuff noted that a reliable wirelesses network is important to have when it comes to delivering essential communication services.

“Some purposes of wireless service towers include providing EMS, fire and police services with reception, voice and data service [phone calls, e-mails, and text messages], internet service [browsing], internet streaming, and for business needs as an increasing number of people are working from home,” he said. “To provide all these services each carrier must have their own antenna equipment. The county would also have the ability to place its emergency service antennas on this tower.”

As part of the application process, the applicant hosted an online public consultation meeting on December 7, 2023, and mailed out physical brochures to 38 property owners within 500-metres of the proposed property.

Council received several documents during Tuesday’s meeting, including letters from two residents about their concerns with the tower including: health and safety regarding proximity to homes, aesthetics, environmental and real estate value damages, and the lack of public involvement.

Both residents also expressed that they believed there was already sufficient telecommunication coverage in the area.

Cuff said that Canada’s national standard on human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (also known as Safety Code 6), sets out safety requirements for the installation and use of radiofrequency.

“The Safety Code 6 limit that has been chosen, is already 50 times lower than the threshold for any potential adverse health effects. These limits are set well below the levels of unknown potential adverse health effects and provide protection for all age groups, including children, on a continuous basis,” he said. “…This means that if anyone, including a small child, was exposed to radiofrequency energy from multiple sources within the Safety Code 6 limits for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there would be no adverse health effects. Telecommunication equipment on towers only a emit a fraction of what the Safety Code 6 limit is, and so it falls even lower than that threshold potential for adverse health effects.”

Councillor John Bell asked Cuff why the tower was needed now, when the area is essentially fully built out.

“Now that there’s more people and residents in this area …telecommunication companies like Bell, Freedom and Rogers, will all reach out to Signum and give them an area where there’s a dead zone where they need more coverage for their users,” said Cuff. “So basically, there is a lack of coverage for our clients in this area, which is why they came to Signum to build the tower.”

Councillors then unanimously voted to receive and refer the applicant’s information package to staff and will vote on the matter at a later date.

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