Opinion

Maple Ridge can do more

Janine Brooker sits with her son Nick Schuchard on her property where a Telus cell phone tower is proposed. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Janine Brooker sits with her son Nick Schuchard on her property where a Telus cell phone tower is proposed.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Editor, The News:

 

Re: ‘Move if so concerned about cell tower’ (The News, April 18).

I feel the need to respond to the apathetic attitudes expressed by our elected officials and municipal employees in these stories.

My family’s main irritant is not the lack of municipal authority on the issue, but rather the municipality’s seeming refusal to do anything with what authority it does have.

We’ve gotten the same story from so many people, that it’s a matter within federal jurisdiction, that the municipal bylaws don’t apply, but no one has been able to provide us with the legislation or court case that says so.

Why does anyone assume they’re correct if they can’t back up their conclusions?

Just because Industry Canada has authority over radio communications, why does anyone assume that means municipal bylaws don’t apply?

Just because the postal service falls under federal jurisdiction, could Canada Post decide it needs a post office in my mom’s back yard, and can it build whatever it wants without regard to local zoning and building bylaws?

Why is the District of Maple Ridge abdicating without even trying to assert itself as the land use authority?

The fact is that Maple Ridge can do more. Other municipalities have created policies that express their preferences for siting (buffer zones around schools and residential areas) and requirements for public consultation.

There have been two recent examples (PoCo and Metchosin in 2011) that show that when a municipality withholds its concurrence with a proposal, the proponent walks away.

Even without a cell tower siting policy in place, Maple Ridge could at least withhold its concurrence.

Why is Maple Ridge instead rolling out the red carpet for this proposal?

Why would Industry Canada consult with municipalities if it didn’t think it had to?

Why do proponents walk away when a council withholds its concurrence?

Maybe I’m cynical, but I don’t believe that it’s just because it might be a good political or business decision.

There are many reasons for council to take a stand for the good of this community.

Contrary to the opinion expressed by Roy Bennett of Antenna Management Corp., that concerns about health effects are diminishing, more authoritative sources (such as the World Health Organization) have expressed increasing concern. There may not be a study that shows everyone will get sick, but some people do get sick when they live so close to these antennas. Until we have an explanation for why and how that happens, it seems prudent to act with caution instead of putting these towers so close to our homes with the rationale that there isn’t conclusive evidence that they’re a danger to human and animal health.

With regard to property value, B.C. Assessment did apply a downward adjustment to an area of Colwood beset by radio antennae. Anecdotally, we know homes in that area, and others where cell towers have been installed, simply can’t sell.

A study from New Zealand reported a 20-per-cent decrease in property value in suburbs where towers had been installed.

A study by Industry Canada indicates that impact on property values will be proportional to the degree of public concern over health impacts, and that’s only increasing.

There’s also concern with regard to construction of this sort (and fuels and herbicides used after construction) in such proximity to watercourses and an aquifer in an area where everyone is dependent on well water.

On top of all of this, though, is the concern for the character of our community. I know that my family is not the only one for whom Whonnock is a place of refuge, peace, quiet, and tranquility.  People live there because it is away from the city, apart from industry, they come here to give their children space and air, to try their hand at farming.  And here, as in any neighbourhood, people make their own decisions about the vices in which they will indulge.  One neighbour shouldn’t be allowed to subject the rest to a possible health hazard or to do something unilaterally that will reduce everyone’s property values and impact their enjoyment of their land.

This is a time to think about what we want for our communities.

It is a time for reality checks, not risk management communications strategies or whitewashing.

Telus’ expansion plans are not about providing a public service; rather, they are about lining the pockets of its shareholders.

What the landowners are getting in this instance, though surely it looks like a good deal to them, is a drop in the bucket to Telus.

Have we lost touch with reality so much that we think it’s an essential service to be able to check emails or watch videos on mobile devices in the Whonnock Lake area?

I hope no one is so foolish as to think we’re just going to get tired and go away.  I can assure you that we aren’t going anywhere. This place is worth fighting for.

Margo Foster

Maple Ridge

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