A group of Highlands residents said they were shocked to learn last month that a new 90-metre cell tower has been proposed for Glamorgan Road. Further, they claim approval is being rushed despite homeowners knowing nothing about it.
Liz Laidlaw was driving home one night when she spotted a notice about the project from Rogers on the side of Minnicock Lake Road. After talking to nearby residents, Laidlaw said few were aware of the plans.
Of more than two dozen nearby homes, she said only four had been served with an information package by Rogers.
“We’re concerned not only about the project, but the process too,” Laidlaw said. “If I hadn’t stopped to read that sign, we may not have learned about the project until it was too late.”
As part of the public consultation process outlined by Dysart et al, Christian Lee, a wireless site specialist with Rogers, said the company is only required to notify property owners within 500-meters of the tower location.
According to Rogers, the tower will boost cell reception for residents and provide wireless network coverage for customers in the area. It’s part of the $300 million public-private partnership announced last year by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to improve cellular connectivity throughout the region.
Rogers is preparing to bring between 30 and 40 new fifth-generation cell towers and improve 21 existing ones across Haliburton County.
The company expects to complete all upgrades by the end of this year, with new tower construction to wrap up by 2025. The nearest existing tower to the proposed site on Glamorgan Road is almost nine kilometres away.
Laidlaw said she’s concerned about the environmental impact. She believes the tower poses risks to wildlife and plant life, and that it will disrupt the natural landscape and beauty of the area. “There are natural wetlands, turtle nesting areas, bird migratory paths and a heronry in this area, which will all be impacted by construction,” she said.
Laidlaw claims initial talks with Rogers weren’t productive, so she launched a petition. At press time, it has 80 signatures.
Rogers spokesperson Zac Carreiro told The Highlander the proposed site will not have any impact on the watershed, wells or water quality. The company said the project meets or exceeds all standards set out by Health Canada in its ‘Safety Code 6’ – a document that outlines recommended safety limits for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.
“The proposed site will provide optimal wireless coverage along Hwy. 118 and Glamorgan Road, where there is currently poor wireless service, as well as provide improved connectivity to any individual needing to contact emergency services,” Carreiro said.
Laidlaw contends cell reception in the area is already adequate.
She and several other residents, including Michael and Susan Butz, attended a virtual public consultation June 14.
“The meeting was geared towards Rogers’ agenda. The bulk of the time allotted was an overview of the materials we already had. There was very little time given to address concerns and questions from the attendees,” Laidlaw claimed.
Dysart Ward 2 Coun. Larry Clarke asked Lee if a smaller tower more fitting to the surroundings could be installed, such as the pine tree lookalikes that have become popular in Muskoka. Laidlaw claimed Rogers shot the idea down.
“He said a 90-metre tower was absolutely necessary to hit all the coverage zones Rogers wants to hit,” Laidlaw said.
Dysart et al deputy mayor Pat Kennedy said he sat in on the virtual meeting and afterwards was “a little dismayed how it was dealt with.”
He said one person was cut off mid-sentence as Rogers ended the meeting.
“They could have done a better job.”
Butz, who lives on Glamorgan Road, wondered what Rogers intended to do to ensure a stream that runs through the area was unaffected by construction.
Carreiro said Rogers will install a culvert to ensure the stream can flow uninterrupted. Before construction is to begin, the tower must be approved by Dysart et al.
Director of planning Jeff Iles said a report on the application would be presented to council on June 28. Laidlaw said she intends on making her feelings known to council before any decision is made.
“The ideal outcome we are looking for is the cancellation of this proposed tower. It is clearly stated from the community [through the petition] that it is neither wanted nor needed in this area,” Laidlaw said. “We value the natural beauty of our surroundings and choose to protect all within it.”