Cell mast dilemma
Church can’t end contract linked to controversial tower application
ACHURCH at the centre of a proposed cell tower controversy has found itself unable to withdraw from the application process to erect the tower because it signed over power of attorney to the cell mast company.
Following strong community opposition to the proposed cell tower being erected on the property of the Dias Dutch Reformed Church in Broadway, Port Alfred, Dominie Wikus Venter sent out a letter saying the church had “withdrawn from the process”, hoping to offset a staged protest outside the church on Sunday May 28.
However, this turned out not be accurate, as the church council has since admitted it gave Atlas Towers power of attorney when it signed a contract with the company in August last year.
The original power of attorney document submitted with the application was undated, but this has since been amended.
The proposed tower at the Dias NGK was one of four towers proposed to be erected on various NGK properties around Ndlambe, including in Nemato, Bushman’s River and Boknes. BJB Projects was appointed to produce the application for departure with Ndlambe town planning and notices were placed calling for public comment and objections by June 30.
Residents have submitted objections to the municipality, based on health concerns over electromagnetic radiation, the way the process was being conducted, and the impact of the towers on property values.
Two of the objectors, Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Dawie van Wyk and a neighbour Charles Pellew, met with Venter last Friday about their ongoing concerns.
After the meeting, Van Wyk summarised what had been discussed, including the existence of a second power of attorney document, signed with four individuals rather than BJB Projects. A copy was provided to TotT.
“[Venter] explained it would be extremely expensive for the NG Kerk to get out of the agreements signed with Atlas Towers and BJB Projects and the cheapest option for the NG Kerk is to continue with the process and hope that the Ndlambe Municipality reject the applications on the grounds of the numerous objections,” Van Wyk said.
He said the church was resorting to using the objections of local residents to get out of the dilemma.
Van Wyk appealed to the dominie, “as a gesture of goodwill”, to encourage his congregants to sign a petition against the erection of cell phone towers in residential areas in Ndlambe.
He also asked that the church submit its own objections to the proposed cell tower.
“[Venter] indicated to us he was sorry that the church ever started this project,” Van Wyk said.
TotT sent questions to Venter, and he responded that the church council would submit a press release this week. The church opted to take out a paid advertisement in the newspaper.
In it the church council explained the background to the project, and said all rental income from the masts would have gone toward community projects that the church is involved in.
“The fulfilment of our mission as a church of Christ, requires that we maintain a positive relationship with the community. We did not want this matter to develop into polarisation between our church and the community. The church council therefore decided to withdraw from the project.”
But the church council said when they notified Atlas Towers of their decision, the company “responded that the contract gives them power of attorney which they will exercise and go through with the application for approval”.
“After legal advice we decided to let the process run its course,” the statement concluded, advising residents that they can submit written objections to the municipality before June 30.
‘[Venter] indicated to us he was sorry that the church ever started this project’