March 6, 2014
By Chad Ingram - Minden Times
Bell will be erecting a telecommunications tower near Fletcher Lake in Algonquin Highlands.
Councillors for the township heard a presentation on behalf of Bell from consultant Haseeb Armizada of CanACRE Ltd. during their March 6 meeting.
The 80-metre tower will stand to the west of Fletcher Lake near Bear Lake Road on a patch of Crown land.
“Private lands are just too far from road access or hydro so we couldn’t do it,” Armizada told council, adding the company was still waiting on a response from the MNR but in the meantime planned to start the required public consultation process.
While Algonquin Highlands is the local land use authority, council is not the decision-making body when it comes to the construction of telecommunications towers. That distinction belongs to Industry Canada and its guidelines dictate that companies solicit public feedback through signage and advertising and that residents within a radius equal to the height of the proposed structure be informed by mail.
Residents within 500 metres of the site will be notified, Armizada said.
He intends to hold the public input period, which must last three weeks, in the very near future.
Reeve Carol Moffatt suggested waiting until seasonal residents were in the neighbourhood.
“I wouldn’t want you to face the criticism as having done it under the cloak of winter,” Moffatt said. “I take it you haven’t faced the wrath of angry cottagers, then.”
“On previous sites we have,” Armizada said, adding “a lot of the cottage locations are far away from the tower, anyway.”
He believed the tower would also serve part of the northern region of Kawagama Lake.
“I don’t know how far it stretches on the north end,” Armizada said.
Ward 3 Councillor Marlene Kyle wondered what kind of lighting requirements the tower would have.
Armizada said that was dependent on Transportation Canada, but that it was usually at 90 metres that towers had to be outfitted with lighting systems to warn aircraft.
On more modern towers, he noted, such lights are angled in a way that light is projected up, to cause minimal disturbance on the ground.
Kyle also wondered if the company had considered a monopine design – one where towers are disguised to look like giant pine trees.
“Those towers only go up to 30 metres,” Armizada said, adding it would take two or three monopine towers to reproduce the coverage area the tower will create.
Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen seemed less than thrilled with the way the project was unfolding.
“Our entire policy seems to be something you’re not even willing to consider,” Danielsen said. “It’s disappointing.”
The township’s policy encourages monopine design and encourages companies to go beyond the minimum pubic consultation guidelines set out by Industry Canada.
Bell would use Bear Lake Road as an access to the property and Moffatt stressed that an agreement would have to be made with the township that any damage to the road would be repaired by the company.
While Armizada said the intent is to place a sign about the project along Bear Lake Road, chief administrative officer Angie Bird noted the seasonal road is not normally open until May.
“Nobody’s going to see it,” Kyle said.
Armizada noted that the federal government has mandated the connection of remote communities to high-speed Internet and it wasn’t even clear that Bell would make any profit on the project.
Construction time will be six to eight weeks.
Clerk Dawn Newhook said she’d been in touch with the president of the association for Fletcher Lake and he was supportive of the project and was informing members.
“You’re going to do what you’re going to do,” Moffatt said, thanking Armizada for his time but adding she thought he was making a mistake by not waiting until the cottaging season to go through the public input process.
Parliament recently voted to strengthen the rules around cell towers, including more thorough public consultation.