Res­i­dents op­pose cell tower

Puslinch Lake sea­plane pilot says pro­posed lo­ca­tion will cre­ate a haz­ard

Waterloo Region Record - - FRONT PAGE - Jeff Outhit, Record staff

PUSLINCH LAKE — Ron Harper of­ten steps off the dock at his lake­side home to fly away in his sea­plane.

He ar­gues his safety will be at risk if Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is al­lowed to erect a 40-me­tre-tall cell tower 400 me­tres from Puslinch Lake.

“The lo­ca­tion of this tower is so close to the edge of that lake that most cer­tainly, planes are go­ing to have a con­flict with it. They’re go­ing to be fly­ing over it or worse, into it,” Harper said.

Sea­planes use the lake to “stop for a rest. They stop for fuel. They stop for as­sis­tance,” he said.

“This thing is a haz­ard. Why would you want to put a tower there?”

Rogers, the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions firm, pro­poses to in­stall the tower near 2315 Town­line Rd., close to the north­west shore­line of Puslinch Lake on con­ser­va­tion land just east of Cam­bridge.

The tower is meant to im­prove cell re­cep­tion.

“We will con­tinue to work with lo­cal of­fi­cials in or­der to ac­com­mo­date com­mu­nity con­cerns, while pro­vid­ing much-needed wire­less ser­vices to area res­i­dents,” a Rogers spokesper­son said.

Trans­port Canada says the tower can go up with warn­ing lights, point­ing out the lake is not a cer­ti­fied air­port for sea­planes and is un­pro­tected by air­port zon­ing.

“It is the pilot’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to be aware of ob­sta­cles and en­sure they are able to take off and land safely,” the agency said in a state­ment.

Harper’s sea­plane safety con­cern has caught the at­ten­tion of Puslinch Town­ship coun­cil and a na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion of pri­vate pi­lots and air­plane own­ers.

“Com­mon sense dic­tates that you’re not go­ing to put a cell tower right there at the end of the take­off run,” said Bernard Ger­vais, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Own­ers and Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ger­vais points to a Trans­port Canada guideline on land use. It says ob­sta­cles such as cell tow­ers should be kept at least four kilo­me­tres from sea­plane bases even where air­port zon­ing does not ap­ply.

“It’s not a reg­u­la­tion. It’s a guideline for com­mon sense,” Ger­vais said, urg­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion to re­lo­cate or re­fine the tower pro­posal. Sea­planes land and take off from Puslinch Lake in all di­rec­tions, al­ways into the wind. Some tie up at a sea­plane base that Harper op­er­ates from his dock.

An in­ex­pe­ri­enced pilot was killed at Puslinch Lake in 2013 af­ter tak­ing off too low and crash­ing into the hilly shore­line, on the op­po­site side of the lake from the pro­posed tower.

Rogers planned the tower at 50 me­tres, but trimmed it by 10 me­tres af­ter pub­lic com­plaints.

The com­pany has told Puslinch coun­cil it in­ves­ti­gated 13 other pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions and ruled them all out.

Rogers is in­stalling an­other new cell tower far­ther north on Town­line Road.

Puslinch coun­cil has en­dorsed it but stalled en­dorse­ment of the lake­side tower in Novem­ber. Coun­cil plans to re­con­sider it in Jan­uary.

“The pilot of the plane sug­gested it might be a haz­ard to him and he’s the ex­pert,” Coun. Matthew Bul­mer said.

“We’re lis­ten­ing to our res­i­dents.”

Coun­cil ap­proval is ul­ti­mately not re­quired. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment reg­u­lates telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers, which fall out­side lo­cal reg­u­la­tions.

“In the end lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have very lit­tle im­pact on whether a tower will go in a lo­ca­tion or not,” Mayor Den­nis Lever said.

The Grand River Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity is leas­ing the tower site to Rogers for $19,500 a year.

It will go where the agency de­mol­ished a house in 2014.

“Their man­date is to look af­ter the lake and the wildlife around there and they’re just do­ing the com­plete op­po­site,” Puslinch Lake res­i­dent Liam Nother said.

Nother went be­fore Puslinch coun­cil to op­pose the tower, rep­re­sent­ing up to 20 neigh­bours.

He de­nies that op­po­si­tion is a not-in-my-back­yard com­plaint by peo­ple who use cell­phones but find the tower spoils their view.

“This is the health and safety of our lake,” he said, ar­gu­ing that cell tow­ers con­fuse birds, drive an­i­mals away and threaten peo­ple.

“I’ve done some re­search on the in­ter­net,” he said. “The ra­dio waves, it’s not healthy for us.”

Trans­port Canada says there’s “no sci­en­tific or med­i­cal ev­i­dence that a person will ex­pe­ri­ence ad­verse health ef­fects from ex­po­sure to ra­dio fre­quency fields” that are within Cana­dian stan­dards.

A dis­agree­ment be­tween Puslinch coun­cil and Rogers could trig­ger a res­o­lu­tion process in which the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would de­cide on the tower.

PETER LEE, RECORD STAFF

Sea­plane pilot Ron Harper stands on his dock at Puslinch Lake where he teth­ers his air­craft.

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