A group of taxpayers with property on Wenona Lake is calling on Dysart et al council to re-establish a policy governing the installation of cell towers in the community, though mayor Murray Fearrey indicates that’s not on the township’s radar.

Yolanda Clark, Phyllis McCulloch, and Jim Taylor say they represent a group of half a dozen other residents who share concerns over the recent process undertaken by Rogers to install a 60-metre cell tower east of Wenona Lake. That project, part of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s cell gap project, was supported by the township in September.

That came as a surprise to the group, who felt they were still in the consultation phase Rogers are required to carry out under federal Innovation Space and Economic Development [ISED] policies.

“We feel this process has been a mess. First, a sign advertising this potential site was put up in the middle of winter when all the seasonal residents are away… Not all residents around Wenona Lake, who would be impacted by this, received letters. So, I’m not sure how people were supposed to know this was even happening,” McCulloch said.

Taylor was one of those, saying he only learned about the application when McCulloch put out a notice to her neighbours.

“It was a shock to me when I found out,” Taylor said.

In March, Dysart council opted to abolish its existing cell tower policy, with coun. Tammy Donaldson commenting, “we might as well not have [one] because we’re not abiding by it anyway.” This came shortly after council approved a 75-metre tower to service Benoir Lake, despite the project contravening a clause in the policy stating towers should be located at least one kilometre from any residence and be camouflaged.

Fearrey recently told The Highlander he felt that policy was outdated and no longer served a purpose.

“It was implemented at a time when tower technology was different, now we hear if a tower isn’t located within close proximity to homes, they’re largely ineffective,” Fearrey said. “The bottom line, for me, is municipalities don’t have much control. It’s ISED that deals with the approval of these sites. We can voice our opinion, but that’s it.

“To me, it doesn’t matter whether Dysart has a policy or not. Others have policies and it doesn’t change anything. I guess it might stall things for a couple of months, but that’s about it,” the mayor added.

Clark feels the municipality has a duty to protect residents, and the natural environment. By reinstating a bylaw, she said the township could mandate that anyone looking to install a tower should have to share plans with all nearby impacted property owners, and ensure thorough public consultation takes place before a project can proceed.

Currently, ISED protocols stipulate only residents located in the surrounding area equal to three times the tower height be notified. There are no requirements to hold in-person or virtual meetings, though concerns are to be received, and responded to, via email.

Lisa Severson, speaking on behalf of EORN, feels the consultation process for this project was completed adequately. She noted consultants working on behalf of Rogers considered concerns brought forward by the public and agreed to move the tower 200 metres back from its original location following extensive discussions.

She noted the application has been forwarded to ISED for consideration.

McCulloch remains unhappy.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” she said.

Clark added, “collectively, we’d like to see this tower in a different spot. We would like council to really look at this and understand the process has not been followed. This application was made while [Dysart’s policy] was still in place, so why shouldn’t they have to comply?

“More needs to be done to protect our lakes, to protect our environment,” Clark added.