There is a need for public consultation before companies can build cell towers near people’s homes in Saskatoon, according to new guidelines set by the city’s council.
City council voted on Monday in favour of more stringent rules which will likely impact wireless phone companies operating in the city.
Prior to the new guidelines, the erection of cell towers that are less than 15 metres tall did not need to go through a public meeting. The new rules now require that public consultation be sought for towers less than 15 metres in height if they are within 30 metres of a residence.
While public consultation on towers that are over 15 metres is typical, the council’s position on shorter towers could pit it against Industry Canada, according to Mark Goldberg, principal of Mark H. Goldberg & Associates Inc., a telecommunications industry consulting firm based in Vaughan, Ont.
“The decision on the location of cell towers and other telecom equipment is a federal matter,” he said. “Industry Canada exempts the erection of cell towers less than 15 metres in height from public consultation requirements.”
Conflicts between municpalities and wireless service providers who build cell towers in their jurisdictions are very common across the country, said Goldberg. “Much of the residents’ concerns are around the aestethic issues and health issues associated with radio frequencies.”
The preponderance of cell towers, however, is unavoidable he said.
“As the demand for more wireless and Internet service grows, we will undoubtably see more of these towers sproutning up near residential areas,” according to Goldberg. “The cell companies have offered some solutions such as integrating the towers into existing ligth posts and locating the towers in park areas.”
A representative from wireless company SaskTel said they are looking to looking to install more these so-called “stealth” cell towers around the city in the form of 15 metre monopoles.
The company has 42 cell towers in Saskatoon and SaskTel is looking to double that number to keep up with demand for 4G and LTE capability.