Kincardine council divided over support of new Bell tower

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

 

Kincardine council is not supporting the construction of a new Bell tower on the Kincardine Legion property.

 

Representatives from the Legion and Bell Mobility came to last Wednesday’s council meeting looking for concurrence for the installation of a wireless telecommunications tower on the Lambton Street property.

Council learned that approval from the project comes from Industry Canada and the municipality does not have the authority to prohibit the tower. Council was simply being asked to concur that Bell was following the appropriate process by informing the public about the project.

 

The tower, expected to be erected behind the Legion building, will be 25 metres high. The antennas will be shrouded by a vertical Legion sign featuring a poppy.

 

Bell distributed information brochures to residents of properties surrounding the site in late January. The company received two complaints about the proximity to the tower to a residential area. After a response was issued from Bell, there were no additional complaints.

 

Patti Richards and Sylvia Leigh, of Heritage Kincardine, also attended last week’s meeting and raised concerns about the project. Richards said the heritage committee only learned of the project after reading about it in The Independent the week prior. Given that the Legion carries a heritage designation, Heritage Kincardine should have been notified, she said.

 

“It isn’t just the Legion, within a one block radius you have about a dozen heritage properties.”

 

Richards said the streetscape and views also need to be considered.

 

“When people walk down to watch the sunset the first thing they will see is this tower and a big sign.”

 

Joel Swagerman, of Bell Mobility, said the tower was originally proposed to be 30 metres in height, but was downsized. The sign will also help to mask the tower, he said.

 

“We’ve tried to respect the integrity of the heritage designation and the surrounding homes with the sign,” he said.

 

Swagerman said a tower in Kincardine’s core is sorely needed to serve cellular customers downtown and in the area of Station Beach. Currently, customers experience dropped calls or don’t get any wireless connectivity at all. Bell currently has two wireless telecommunications towers at the outskirts of Kincardine in the south.

 

“We see volumes rise in the summer and we find it a real challenge to adequately serve the needs of our customers,” Swagerman said, adding that the Legion site would meet the service needs.

 

Bell will lease the land from the Kincardine Legion for the tower. Bob Gray, Legion secretary, said non-disclosure of the lease amount was written into the agreement because of competition from other telecommunication service providers. He said while the original Legion building, formerly the Ardloch Lodge, had historical significance that was destroyed in the 1970s when the new hall was added to the building and out buildings were torn down.

 

With no financial support from upper levels of government, money from the lease would help to keep the Legion viable, he added, and allow the organization to continue to support veterans and community organizations.

 

Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said she is protesting the site location because she believes there are other options that Bell could consider. Setting up multiple smaller towers that could be masked in things like a municipal clock is one such option, she said.

 

Swagerman said that Bell did look at other options but any sites in the downtown core did not allow for enough height to carry signals.

 

Councillor Ken Craig inquired if the Davidson Centre property would be in the wireless range that Bell is looking at, but Swagerman noted that signals would be blocked there as well.

 

Faubert asked if there will be lease potential on the tower for other service providers. Swagerman said there would.

 

Council voted on the request to concur with the project and defeated it in a tied vote, but agreed to allow the sign. Councillor Maureen Couture abstained from voting as she is the current Kincardine Legion president.