Tuesday, April 8, 2008

[PACT of Richmond Hill] A Reply To Councillor Foster

Hi All
Many citizens of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada are fighting to stop the installation of two large cell phone towers, very close to many homes and a children's day care facility. Mr. James Cooper, one of the concerned residents sent this very interesting and thoughtful message to a member of the local council. He has made several good points that may help others who are involved in similar struggles.
Sent: Sunday, March 30, 2008 8:05 AM
Subject: [PACT of Richmond Hill] A Reply To Councillor Foster

Dear Councillor
I appreciate the reply. I am, however, more than a bit puzzled by your explanation that Council's powers to inform us are outright restricted by the Federal government. In your letter, you stated that "we are allowed only a public information meeting...We have a federally instructed guideline as to how far out the meeting notice goes and that distance is only 30 meters."
Is that indeed the case? My understanding of a "guideline" is that it is suggestive, not mandatory. My other understanding is that the federal government - specifically, Industry Canada - has absolutely no jurisdiction to mandate the extent to which Council may inform their constituents. You obviously know this, since - once the scope of public outrage over the Bell tower approval became apparent - you scheduled a second public information meeting, with more notification, in regard to the Rogers tower application so that we would have the opportunity to let you know exactly what we felt prior to you communicating a response to Industry Canada about the Rogers tower.
And that's the crux of the problem. Council - of which you are a part - never afforded us the sufficient opportunity to get our opinions heard by Industry Canada before you communicated to them that Council had no problem with this location in regard to the Bell tower. As far as Industry Canada was aware, this Council was absolutely fine with this location, and on that basis, Bell was given the go-ahead to proceed. Now, that presented a huge problem for us - since Bell is now largely depending on the fact of your approval to proceed with impunity.
Now, had the Mayor sent off his letter to Industry Canada before that initial approval, expressing his opinion that this was not a good location for a cell tower, Industry Canada's existing consultation protocols would have been engaged, prodding them to attempt a reconciliation of interests between Council and the cell tower proponent. Were you not aware of Industry Canada's consultation protocols before you voted your approval for this tower? If not, does that not make your decision to approve this tower an illegitimate decision, based on a misleading perception of your existing powers? Did not your fellow Council members appreciate that they had the right to dissent by expressing their opinions about this tower to Industry Canada?
Based on what you've communicated to me, I can only conclude that you have fettered your discretion by communicating an approval based on a misunderstanding of your existing powers. Indeed, you cannot overrule or block Industry Canada's powers to issue a licence to a cell tower applicant. On the other hand, Industry Canada's own Guidelines advise cell tower applicants that if a Council acts against a company that places a tower against a municipality's wishes, Industry Canada cannot provide them immunity from any actions initiated by the municipality.
Put another way, what Industry Canada is saying to a cell tower company is, "No one can stop us from issuing a licence (true), and you're free to use it as you wish (true), but we cannot step in and protect you against the consequences of proceeding against the wishes of a land use authority."
Now, let that sink in just a bit. Industry Canada has no jurisdiction over you (they say so themselves on their own website). Conversely, you have no jurisdiction over their powers to issue an approval licence. But make no mistake. They threw the municipalities a bone. They said essentially, "Your opinion is relevant. Give us feedback. Let us know if you guys are against the location or not - since that might impact on our decision to issue an approval licence."
Now, just consider the wonderful possibilities we would have open to us if you had not misunderstood your powers to communicate with us and Industry Canada. In that alternate reality, we would not have Guy Raymond lecturing us that we already had our day in "court", since Council communicated its initial approval of this location for a tower. Perhaps Industry Canada would have mandated that Bell consult further with Council and affected residents to work toward a mutually acceptable solution, as is their present policy.
Obviously, that did not happen. And now we're in a mess that - let's face it - began with Council's inability to initially notify and consult with us.
Fortunately, we recognize that there are indeed other options open to us. We recognize that Council has considerable powers to ensure that residents, going forward, are sufficiently notified and consulted. And have no doubt: PACT is reaching out beyond this ward, across Richmond Hill, to ensure that this present travesty of a "consultation process" never happens again.
But that does not mean the Bell tower issue has been laid to rest with us. Far from it. The tower is up today because Council never recognized its right to communicate a dissent to Industry Canada. On the other hand, Council really had no basis for communicating that dissent because they never even bothered to sufficiently document our opinions - as was their indisputable right to do (contrary to what you have clarified to us).
But now we know. The tower is here on the basis of an illegitimate and faulty decision-making process. With that in mind, we have options. Council has the power to pass resolutions and make public appeals. You have the option to be proactive on this matter and to take it directly to Bell, Petro, and the media on our behalf.
But at this point, we're no longer satisfied by failed efforts. We will only recognize results that operate to reverse the injustice done.
Council has the power to ensure that all affected residents are properly notified. Council has the power to document and tabulate the percentage of residents who oppose a tower at any particular location. Council has the power to publicize those results and to publicly communicate opinions to Industry Canada and cell tower proponents.
The members of Pact all know this. And with each passing day, more of your constituents will know this, as will more residents of Richmond Hill, once they realize the extent to which their Council has not served their interests.
And so, we eagerly await your proactive efforts to obtain a reversal of this present state of affairs.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2008 7:19 PM
Subject: cell towers

Dear Mr. Cooper

Thank you for taking the time to email me your comments on the cell tower issues.

I think I need to clarify the process that we are presently forced to function under with regards to cell tower applications. The Town has no legislative ability to deny these applications - we are allowed to have only a public information meeting and we send the comments from that public meeting to Industry Canada. We have a federally instructed guideline as to how far out the meeting notice goes and that distance is only 30 meters.

The Bell Tower invitations went to sidential addresses to capture the townhouses to the south of the gas station - it was attended by 3 residents out of over 40 households invited and there was no mention at that time of the health issues and I must tell you that I did not even ask about emissions issues because I assumed the safety of these towers had been checked and ok'd for us by Health Canada and Industry Canada..

At the next public meeting I extended the invitation list to include Hiram Road and six people showed up including Rhonda Pomerantz, who is one of the founding members of PACT. It is through Rhonda that I became aware of the issues with the safety guidelines and when Rhonda asked that I have another meeting to invite more stakeholders and try to get some answers on the emissions issues I quickly agreed and Rhonda assisted me by making email contact and I sent out over 500 invites from the Town to a distance of 500 meters from the tower site.

It was clear to all who attended that meeting, which was also attended by Industry Canada, that more information was needed and that is why the next meeting to be held May 12 at Town Hall is so important for all to attend. This municipality, along with our residents, needs to send a strong message to the Federal Government who oversees Industry Canada and Health Canada that we need answers to our questions, and we need a better notification process that goes out as far as 500 meters from the 30 meters that is legislated now.

On May 12, Council for the Town of Richmond Hill will hear a scientist give us information on how Europe has dealt with emissions and reduced the power without compromising the industry...I am also inviting Health Canada and Industry Canada to come and present their data and residents will also be speaking. This will be an important night for information on cell towers to be presented from all sides and for Council to hear from all stakeholders on this issue.

I want to be very clear in everyone understanding that the issue here is not opposition to cell phone technology - it is making sure that the science that allows Industry Canada to create its rules on emissions standards is state of the art and reflects the safest, most up to date information and those rules have to come from Health Canada. I am worried that Health Canada is working with standards that are very old and maybe out of date....However this is all information that will be discovered on the night of May 12.

I can also assure you that on that night I will bringing forth motions to help our Town and set an example for other municipalities on the issues that we need to be able to control - like notification distances and site plans....BUT the most important message must be sent back to the Federal bodies that we need up to date, scientific data to allow these towers to function safely and until that time I will be recommending a distance of probably 500 meters from residential and schools for any plan to be agreeable to our Town. Please remember that Industry Canada presently has the right to OVERULE any comments that we make and put cell towers anywhere they please once a cell company has demonstrated need.

Please plan on attending - with the help of you all we can force change in this industry by up to date standards that reduce the emissions to an acceptable and safe level.

Thank you again for emailing me and with your help we can aim to make the existing towers in our Town safe for the future.

Lynn Foster

Councillor Ward 4


----- Original Message -----
From: "James Cooper" Sent: 03/28/2008 03:47 PM AST
To: Office-Mayor Richmondhill;
Subject: A Message To Our Mayor and Ward Councillor

Dear Mayor Barrow and Councillor Foster:

After months of being told that there was nothing you could do to stop this tower, we are now faced with a fait accompli. The tower is going up at the corner of Elgin and Bathurst.

As you might be aware, the members of PACT are furious about this. They know that, ultimately, this situation came about because of your original approval that was given above our heads.

In fact, in messages from Guy Raymond to members of this group, he is depending on the fact that he obtained your approval back in May.

See, here is our problem - we are all fighting a tower approved by you. Industry Canada has officially wiped its hands of the matter because you already signaled your approval at a time when their consultation protocols might have had an impact. And now, Bell is depending on that approval.

So now we have this tower.

With that in mind, you have now put in place a huge coalition of hundreds of residents (growing by the day, mind you) who will see to it that both of you never get elected to another term in Richmond Hill - so long as this tower remains in place.

We all know Industry Canada's consultation policies, so don't even bother telling us you "had no choice."

Bottom line: You approved this tower without sufficiently notifying us. So, the members of PACT all hold you accountable for this present state of affairs.

We suggest that you don't sit idle and hope that this all passes. As of this writing, a very large bloc of residents are motivated to mobilize against your re-election in this Town.

Since you failed to represent us at the crucial point when it might have had an effect, as citizens, we do have a right to ensure that both of you will no longer play a part in the politics of this Town come next election.

At this point, we don't want to hear excuses. You got us into this mess back in May and then sat around and did nothing. We're only looking for results. Otherwise, you have just sacrificed years of political service for the sake of one cell tower.

We're all reading this email and awaiting your urgent attention to this matter.