James Weldon, North Shore NewsPublished: Sunday, January 25, 2009
Concerned residents in the Edgemont neighbourhood can rest easy this week with the announcement that Bell Mobility has dropped plans to erect an 18-storey cell tower near their homes.
The communications company withdrew from the consultation and permitting process Jan. 21, effectively scrapping the project. Bell had planned to build the 55-metre structure on provincial land near the Edgemont Boulevard overpass at Hwy. 1 in order to improve its cellphone coverage on the North Shore.
The reversal is the result of "a change in business direction with respect to mobile communications," according to a release from the District of North Vancouver.
The news will likely be applauded by residents of nearby homes, many of whom had voiced strong opposition.
"It's excellent news," said Matthew Wild, who lives within two blocks of the proposed site. "I'm very, very pleased."
Wild, together with a number of neighbours, launched a campaign to derail the project after it was quietly announced in May. Opponents sent out information to residents of nearby homes and brought their concerns to district council in early September.
The group's objections centred on the potential visual impact and on health concerns. Many of the tower's opponents worried that the radio waves it emitted might have a negative effect on those living nearby.
"I didn't want to have an 18-storey tower standing over my house," said Wild. "I can choose not to carry (a cellphone), but if there's a huge antenna in my neighbourhood, I can't choose not to be within (its range)."
The residents' efforts motivated council to petition the province to reject Bell's plans, but it is unlikely that that action had any effect on the outcome.
Because the proposed site lay on a highway allowance, it fell outside the district's jurisdiction. Legally speaking, the province could only halt Bell's plans if the tower posed a threat to vehicle traffic, or if the federal government deemed it to be a risk to the health of nearby residents.
The intensity of the tower's emissions would have fallen well within Health Canada's guidelines, however, making its approval extremely likely.
Wild would like to see legal changes aimed at forcing more community consultation on similar projects in the future. He acknowledges that any bylaw to that effect would, at best, only slow the process down.