Erin council supports location for new telecom tower

Compromise reached between Signum Wireless, area residents

ERIN – What began with some residents “vigorously opposing” a 50-metre telecommunications tower on the 5th Line, has ended with a compromise on the tower’s height and location, and a letter of support from the town.

In a June 2022 email to the town, 5th Line resident Edward Vesel said, “I will be vigorously opposing this,” and suggested moving the tower farther from his residence.

A month earlier, Fontur International, a Richmond Hill-based urban planning group which manages 31 towers in Ontario for Signum Wireless, submitted a report to the town advising that a location had been found for a new telecommunications tower at 5128 5th Line in Erin.

Though it falls to the federal government to ultimately issue a tower operation licence, it’s up to municipalities to endorse that a proper planning process was followed to its satisfaction, and in essence, determine whether a tower is built at a certain location.

When municipalities don’t have their own tower sitting process, planners default to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s guidelines.

Only when the planning and consultation process is completed, in agreement with the municipality, can a tower be built.

Three complaints about the proposal were emailed during a 35-day consultation period last summer.

They included concerns about a loss in property value, quality of life, health and safety, aesthetics and visibility of the tower.

Speaking specifically to health and safety concerns, Brendan Chiu of Fontur International wrote in an email to a concerned resident that Health Canada has established acceptable limits for exposing Canadians to electromagnetic radio frequency energy.

That maximum, according to Chiu’s email, is 50 times lower than the threshold needed for potential adverse health effects.

“The limit of Safety Code 6 in Canada is 5.83 watts per meter squared. The signal from a carrier tower at a distance of 30 meters from the tower is greater than 10,000 times below this standard,” Chiu wrote.

“By the time the signal travels inside the homes in the area around the tower the signal is measured in milliwatts.”

A yellow dot illustrates the only location agreeable to 5th Line residents for the installation of a 35-metre telecommunications tower. The location was determined by residents during a July 29 site visit by a representative acting on behalf of Signum Wireless. April 13 Erin council meeting agenda package image


But the concerns with aesthetics and property values remained at a June 30 public meeting.

“We are very unhappy with this location,” Vesel said at the meeting, attended by Chiu.

Councillor John Brennan suggested moving the tower closer to the landlord’s house “as the landlord is being compensated.”

Other councillors also empathized with Vesel’s concerns.

Chiu organized a July 29 site visit, writing in a March 8 report summarizing the public consultation process, that he wanted to “reach an understanding” with neighbouring 5th Line residents, including Scott Einmann and Dave Anderson.

The visit lasted two-and-a-half hours, during which Chiu heard concerns of aesthetics, vistas, and influence on property values, according to his report.

Chiu proposed alternative locations, but a February 2023 email from Anderson stated residents wouldn’t budge on their proposed location for the tower.

“We will only agree to a 35 [metre] self-support tower in the last proposed location,” the email stated.

Signum Wireless ultimately agreed to shave 15 metres, reducing the tower’s height to the 35 metres requested, from the 50 metres proposed.

The wireless company also agreed to the location demanded by residents.

“This location is the best-case scenario for all parties involved as it mitigates the visual impact as much as possible to the surrounding area and addresses concerns from the public and council,” states Chiu’s report.

At an April 13 council meeting, Brennan told Chiu he was glad neighbours could be satisfied in the end.

“That doesn’t always happen,” he remarked, thanking Chiu for this part.

Brennan noted the town doesn’t have its own tower protocol and asked staff to consider the merit of developing one.

“Something to think about,” he said, adding he wasn’t seeking a formal report from staff.

Fontur International and Signum Wireless did not responded to requests from the Advertiser seeking details about use of the tower and when construction is expected to begin.