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Wellesley defers decision on Bamberg cell tower

Bamberg residents opposed to the location of a proposed cell phone tower want it moved to another spot, prompting Wellesley council to defer its decision on the application from Rogers Communications.

A petition is asking that the tower be built south of Bamberg along Moser Young Road as opposed to the current preferred location at Hessen Strasse and Moser Young. Meeting Tuesday night, councillors opted to hold further discussions with the 17 residents before deciding on a “statement of concurrence” for Rogers.

The proposed 45-metre tall communications tower slated to be built on a hill north of Bamberg has been a topic of concern for months.

Members of the public had until Nov. 15 to make comments and respond to the site proposed by Rogers. The township received the new petition Nov. 14.

Township chief administrative officer Susan Duke told councillors Rogers seems unwilling to look at alternatives given the cost and time it would take to do so. That said, the federal ministry in charge of the process, Industry Canada, indicated that a deferral on the statement of concurrence would provide Rogers with more time to reconsider its options.

“Basically everything has come all at once: the request for the statement, the new petition, Rogers somewhat reluctance to look at the second site but willingness to be reasonable and Industry Canada’s statement that we have 120 days to complete this process,” said Duke.

She suggested council look at the petition, speak with residents and take time to discuss the alternative site despite the fact it could be perceived as strictly being a NIMBY issue: don’t put it in my backyard put it in somebody else’s.

One piece of information not available during the discussion, however, relates to the reaction of residents who would be affected by the alternative site.

“It does open up another area but we don’t know whether their position would be favourable or not, so the question is whether council goes ahead and issues the statement of concurrence because Rogers has done everything they need to do for the first site or whether we take the time to allow this second petition to air itself out and allow Rogers to respond to this petition,” she explained.

If the second site turns out to be equally as or more problematic than the first site, the original plan would be Rogers’ choice to go forward.

“There really is no reason for not allowing that tower to be there. The only thing that has come up is this request by the property owners who have already been engaged in the consultation to perhaps put it somewhere else,” said Duke.

Mayor Ross Kelterborn was in favour of deferring to allow residents to express their concerns.

Ultimately the municipality does not have a decision-making role in this situation. It can facilitate the public consultation and indicate that it has been done in accordance to the rules and regulations and that all of the questions have been responded to, but the final decision will be made by Industry Canada.

“I feel the federal government should be involved in the discussions as ultimately they will be the decision makers on this issue. It is not our responsibility to make the final decision,” said Kelterborn.

Council had the option to issue a letter of non-concurrence, creating an impasse. In that case, the issue would be brought to Industry Canada, which would likely rule on behalf of Rogers.

“If we create an impasse by not issuing the statement of concurrence we basically turn the matter over to Industry Canada and we literally allow the federal government to dictate what happens in the community; we remove all opportunity for the public to be involved,” said Duke. “They will approve it because it meets the criteria regardless of what the municipality has to say and then the question is are we now in conflict with the federal government and is that where we will see ourselves being?”

Council has decided to hold a meeting at a later date where the public will have the opportunity to have their questions answered.

“It is only fair that the people get to voice their concerns and we have more questions answered before we make a decision,” said Coun. Herb Neher. “My concern is that we want to do our job and that the people get the opportunity to voice their opinion.”

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