Mar 25, 2008 06:30 AM
Effort to delay construction falls on deaf ears: mayor By: Caroline Grech Despite protests and threats to change service providers, construction is set to start on a Bell cellphone tower today at the corner of Bathurst Street and Elgin Mills Road.
The move comes amid protests from nearby residents who say placing a tower so close to a residential neighbourhood puts their health and safety at risk.
Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow sent notice to residents Friday and said despite appeals from the town, there’s nothing that can be done to stop the tower, which will go up on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Mr. Barrow asked Bell to delay construction until an alternate location could be found.
“We’ve tried. We’ve written the letters,” Mr. Barrow said, adding Bell feels they’ve done their due diligence.
Rhonda Pomerantz-Kula, a member of PACT of Richmond Hill (precautionary approach to cellular transmissions) said the company has not done enough.
“I don’t believe they need it. They haven’t shared what the other alternatives are,” Ms Pomerantz-Kula said. “We’re not going to just roll over and go away. Bell doesn’t care about setting up towers near kids.”
Part of the problem with the location is a nursery school close by, Ms Pomerantz-Kula said.
Critics of cell towers claim the electromagnetic fields produced are a health threat. However cellphone companies argue their towers give off electromagnetic fields that are within government safety guidelines.
The group of about 350 residents, is concerned about five proposed towers in Richmond Hill.
The Bell tower was approved by Richmond Hill council in April 2007. Ms Pomerantz-Kula admitted that approval made stopping the tower an uphill battle.
She said she and her group want to work with the town to find better places for towers.
Meanwhile, the company has been flooded with letters from angry residents threatening to quit using Bell.
“After all this controversy, I am very disappointed in your attitude and the way you completely dismiss us,” resident Luca Balestrieri wrote. “I will take my business and that of everyone I know to another company for disregarding the safety of children!”
Another resident, Gilda Rovan, blamed Ottawa for the problems.
“If there’s anybody to blame it’s the federal government. They have no business allowing Bell to come into this community. They should be protecting us, not big corporations,” Ms Rovan said.
While some residents have taken their business to other companies in protest, Bell isn’t the only company with a proposal to build a tower at that intersection.
Rogers is also planning a tower for the northeast corner.
In November a public consultation held at the Elgin West Community Centre drew hundreds of residents, all voicing opposition to any towers being built.
Councillors are expected to vote on the construction of the Rogers tower May 12.
However, it is Industry Canada that has the final say over whether or not a cellphone tower will be built.
“Municipalities need to have more responsibility than to just look at them (towers) as just buildings,” Ms Pomerantz-Kula said.
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