West Vancouver says no to Rogers’ cell towers

Rogers fails to prove need; residents cite safety fears

Rogers’ application to build three 36-metre cell towers in West Vancouver died in council chambers Monday, but the power of resurrection still rests with the federal government.

A nearly unanimous chorus blasted the three slim towers proposed for Taylor Way, 15th Street and 26th Street.

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Many speakers compared today’s proliferation of radiation with yesterday’s acceptance of tobacco and DDT.

“It seems to me the people who claim that something is perfectly safe are the ones who stand to make a lot of money,” said Bill Richards, a Simon Fraser University professor of molecular biology and biochemistry who opposed the project.

The type of constant radio-frequency radiation emitted by the towers is increasingly associated with ill effects on the molecular level, potentially resulting in cancer, according to Richards.

The professor asked council to go against the grain when it comes to listening to scientific research.

“It seems to be the mode of operation these days to ignore or actively suppress scientists,” he said.

The strongest note of support for the towers was sounded by frequent council watcher George Pajari.

Besides having a minimal impact on views, the radiation from the towers is well within safe limits, according to Pajari.

“The emanations from these towers are lower than even the most stringent European limits,” he said.

Despite council’s position on the matter, the final decision rests with Industry Canada, a point not lost on Pajari.

If Rogers is not granted the right to build three large towers, West  Vancouver might see 60 towers popping up alongside the highway, according to Pajari.

“Turning this down doesn’t mean no towers, it means we’re going to probably get dozens and dozens of 49-and-a-half-foot towers that are underneath the limit which makes them exempt from your consideration,” he said.

District staff recommended not supporting Rogers’ application. Despite statements regarding poor service in the district, staff said there was no proof to support that claim. Pajari, however, said he needed better service.

Coverage in the district seems fine, according to Coun. Nora Gambioli.

“North Shore Rescue seems to be able to get calls from people lost in crevices,” she said. “I go cross-country skiing at Hollyburn Lodge and I can make calls and receive emails up there with no problem.”

Some residents complained of a flawed consultation phase, citing correspondence from Rogers not personally addressed to homeowners, as well as an advertisement that referred to the towers only in veiled terms.

The six-month consultation process has cost the district a sum far greater than the application fee, according to Gambioli.

Despite some esthetic and consultation concerns, health impacts were paramount in the debate. Assurances of safety from Health Canada did not assuage the fears residents were being treated like lab rats.

One West Vancouverite worried her home would be trapped in what she called the “kill zone.”

The district must choose between poor cellphone service and health risks, according to Coun. Craig Cameron, whose remarks were interrupted by a cellphone ringing in the gallery.
“We can’t just use the cellphone coverage that’s generated from Vancouver and North Vancouver and live smugly over here,” he said.

This may be one of several similar debates to come, according to Coun. Trish Panz. “Guaranteed, this is going to be back at us again,” she said.

The government is taking the town square digital, according to Panz.

West Vancouver-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston also spoke at the meeting, assuring the crowd Industry Canada was well versed in both arguments over the towers.

“In his capacity as the ultimate decision-maker, Industry Minister James Moore has been here to the riding, he’s well-briefed,” Weston said. “At this point it’s premature for the minister to take a position. He’s anxiously awaiting the outcome of your vote this evening.”

Council voted unanimously not to endorse Rogers’ application.

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