Puslinch council turns down cell tower application

Shared Tower Inc. finds alternate site but council doesn't support it

ABERFOYLE – Puslinch council refused to endorse a telecommunications tower application on Feb. 28 following a heated discussion with a delegation.

In its delegation, staff at Shared Tower Inc., seeking a deferral on the decision, accused township staff of “acting in bad faith” on the application and of refusing to send pertinent information they had requested – to the point the company filed a freedom of information request to get it.

“We have a right to due process,” said Shared Tower’s senior planning manager Cheyenne Zierler.

“Staff acted in bad faith keeping information from us.”

Mayor James Seeley took the delegate to task for those comments.

“I don’t appreciate those accusations,” Seeley said, adding the bad faith component was “in your communication – that ‘if you don’t do X, we will do Y.’”

When head of real estate for Shared Tower Nilou Nezhat tried to respond, her mic was repeatedly muted.

“I do not permit her to speak,” Seeley said.

“I want that on the record,” Nezhat responded, before her mic was muted again.

The issue with Shared Tower Inc. goes back a few years.

The company wanted to install a cell phone tower at 7424 Wellington Road 34 in 2022.

It applied through the Canadian Radiocommunications Information and Notification Service (CRINS), a para-municipal organization the township employed to handle telecommunication tower requests.

The whole process was fraught with miscommunication or no communication at all, both Shared Tower and the township agree.

Officials at Shared Tower say they got the okay to proceed from CRINS and so they began installing the foundation for the tower.

But neighbours said they had not received notification, nor had the opportunity to voice concerns before construction was underway. Distributing notices was the responsibility of CRINS.

The township got wind of that and put a halt to the work, cancelled its relationship with CRINS, and told the company to reapply. 

But since it learned there was opposition to the original location, Shared Tower decided to move the location to 7426 Wellington Road 34 – a stone’s throw from the original site – and that site is the subject of the second application.

Shared Tower said it sent notification to neighbours via registered mail in late January, but by the Feb. 28 council meeting, many neighbours had still not received notice.

“We request a deferral because public consultation is not complete,” Zierler told council.

“And we’ve had no opportunity to address staff concerns raised in the report.” 

After the delegation, council discussed a report on the matter prepared by interim CAO Courtenay Hoytfox, in which approval of the tower – a 35-foot monopole – was not recommended.

Hoytfox said there was considerable objection from the public and staff is not certain the company considered co-locating on other sites. 

The municipal office and the Puslinch Community Centre are two locations in the vicinity where towers are approved and either one of these properties would have been more suitable, she wrote.

Councillor Sara Bailey wondered if deferring the decision, as Shared Tower had requested, would allow the company time to meet the township’s expectations.

But when it was time to vote, hers was the only vote against the staff recommendation.

The final decision on telecommunication towers is made by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Canada, but a letter of concurrence from a host municipality carries a lot of weight.

Ultimately, that is what Shared Tower was seeking from the township.

Instead, Puslinch will be sending a letter of non-concurrence and will outline the challenges it experienced with this application.

Council adopted a Radiocommunication Tower and Antenna Protocol Policy in December.

On Feb. 28 council amended it to include the provision that any proponent is responsible for preparing all public notices but that the township will take care of distribution of notices.