December 18, 2013

Proposed Bell tower shocks neighbour

As published in The Erin Advocate

A farmer operating a vacation business that relies on the beauty of the Erin countryside is quite alarmed at the prospect of a new Bell Mobility tower nearby.

Keith Lamont of Thistlestone Farm, on the Fourth Line south of County Road 50, learned last April about an agreement to erect a 61 metre (200 foot) tower right next to his property. He voiced his objections at a public information meeting December 3 in the Erin council chambers.

“I am stunned – they never approached me,” said Lamont. “It is quite ludicrous. Communities have needs too.”

Joel Swagerman of the consulting firm Fontur, working for Bell Mobility, said notifications for consultation can only be sent out after an agreement has been worked out with the owner of a selected location. Landowners can earn substantial revenue by allowing a tower on their property.

Anyone with concerns about this tower must send in their comments to Bell Mobility by December 23, and they will include them with their submission to Industry Canada. While the information meeting took place in the presence of Erin town councillors prior to their regular meeting, they have no authority regarding communications towers and made no comments.

“This has become a stressful experience,” said Lamont, who believes the visual impact of the tower puts his vacation business in jeopardy. “No one concerned has even visited us.”

With his website,, he promotes not only his family’s sheep farm operation, but encourages Farm Stay Vacations. The property has various ponds, trails and boardwalks.

“We have renovated two homes to attract visitors from the Bruce Trail, international ag visitors, naturalists, birders and livestock seminars sanctioned by OMAFRA etc. All these visitors will be staying in accommodation under the shadow of a multi-legged tower.”

Swagerman said several sites were considered in the area, and this is considered the best, providing coverage while meeting the required distance away from wetlands. The Grand River Conservation Authority has issued Bell a permit to use the land for a tower.

“It meets the environmental criteria – we understand that this area is quite sensitive,” he said. “There are concerns that Industry Canada does not necessarily agree are relevant to the proposal – these would be health concerns and property values – that’s just the way they work.”

“All I can counter with is the visual distraction,” said Lamont. “All I can hope for is that someone will agree that we are impacted.”

He asked if there is any possibility of screening the view of the tower to reduce its impact. Swagerman said the planting of trees could be considered, and noted that relocation of the tower within the chosen property could still be considered by Bell Mobility and the landowner in the coming months.

One of Lamont’s supporters said: “This is going to be a substantial aesthetic and financial loss, because his property will be devalued because of that tower. Why should he have the burden of all this, if the other guy gets the financial benefits?”

Community objections to new towers have become frequent news. Last month, loud protesters at a Stewarttown information meeting prevented a Rogers representative from making a presentation on a new cell tower. Complaints there included health fears due to the tower signal, reduced property values, visual distraction and lack of public notification.

Swagerman said the Erin tower is part of a program to expand broadband wireless services (internet data and voice) to underserviced areas. Bell Mobility was issued the area by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission CRTC, and asked to find an appropriate location for a tower within an 800 metre radius.

“The goal of the program is to even it out so the rural areas get improved service, on an equal basis to the urban areas,” he said, noting that residents within a three to five kilometre radius would be able to receive a wireless internet signal.