The Local Trust Committee (LTC) said no Thursday to an application by the Gabriola Radio Society (GRS) to approve the erection of a 40 metre radio tower off Chernoff Drive.
As previously reported, Industry Canada (IC) – the body that oversees the installation and regulation of communication towers – makes the final decision on whether towers may be erected. However, IC requires that tower applications be considered by local governments that have instituted a tower review process.
During their last term, the LTC established a standing resolution outlining what would be required of those applying to erect a tower on Gabriola.
In April GRS applied to the LTC for a letter of approval to build a radio transmission tower to broadcast as CKGI at 87.9 FM. The LTC outlined a community consultation process and listed the information they required for the application process.
At an LTC-facilitated public meeting, the majority of those in attendance were opposed to the tower. Their concerns included: lack of clarity about who else might use the tower; aesthetics; health concerns; proximity to McDuffie’s Swamp and other ecologically sensitive areas; how the tower might impact covenanted areas on the subject property; how GRS planned to pay for the tower – which GRS President Ken Zakreski estimated would cost over $300,000; and what would happen to the tower if GRS were forced to go out of operation.
At the July LTC meeting, Planner Chloe Fox noted that despite repeated requests, GRS had not provided a legal site survey showing the proposed location of the tower on the lot. Nor had they submitted an outline of potential environmental impacts and a mitigation plan. She also noted that some of the agencies to which the application had been referred for comment had not responded.
The LTC postponed their decision till their September meeting to give both GRS and the referral agencies more time to respond. They also asked staff to find out if the landowner of the proposed tower site would be willing to put a covenant on the land requiring that the tower only be used by GRS and be dismantled if GRS ceased to exist.
In a report prepared for Thursday’s meeting, Fox noted that GRS had provided neither the site survey nor the environmental impact assessment and mitigation plan. She said the landowner had indicated that he would be interested in providing the covenant requested, but needed time to look into it.
Fox recommended that the LTC not support the GRS proposal due to: “significant opposition among neighbouring property owners”; and the failure of GRS to provide the requested information. She also recommended that the report and all the public correspondence received by the LTC on the issue be included with the LTC’s response to Industry Canada.
In a presentation at Thursday’s LTC meeting, Zakreski said that on Wednesday the GRS board passed a resolution to provide a legal site survey, and to “undertake and report back (on) an environmental impact (study) to the specification of the Trust”. He added that a professional engineer has said that the tower would have “no environmental impact”. Meeting attendee Mike Phillips said later however, that the report was not written by an environmental engineer.
Zakreski also said that none of the agencies that hold covenants on the property were opposed to the tower. However, Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said that of the covenant holders who responded, the Island Trust Fund said they don’t hold a covenant on the property, and the Regional District of Nanaimo said it could not respond due to the lack of a legal site survey.
Just say no
During a Town Hall session following Zakreski s presentation, meeting attendee Linnet Kartar said opponents to the tower have gone to a lot of trouble to “find out from Industry Canada what it is they would accept in the way of refusal from the LTC”. She said IC wants to hear the “opinion and the needs of the community”. She said Gabriolans “are saying no to this tower”, and that there are other ways to provide community radio.
Meeting attendee George Szanto said Zakreski’s presentation was “an example of how this proposed radio station would be run: too little initiative too late”. He said the tower is not intended as a radio tower but to become “vertical real estate” that will serve “very few people”.
All three trustees said they did not support the application.
Trustee Gisele Rudischer said that of the 81 people who have responded to this proposal, 70 were opposed. She also noted that most of the supportive material GRS presented refers to the radio station, not the tower.
Rudischer said that the Official Community Plan (OCP) does not support the erection of new radio towers, while there are OCP goals – such as to discourage projects that would “reduce the health, natural, and aesthetic values of the planned area”– that speak against it. She said the aesthetic concerns have not been addressed. She added that concern about the effects of radiation could by itself impact people’s heath even if there aren’t any actual effects.
Adding to the list of reasons not to support the application, Malcolmson said that emergency responders, and the arts community – both of whom were identified as main beneficiaries from the tower – had not supported the tower.
While GRS and the landowner have indicated a willingness to answer the LTC’s questions “at the last minute”, Rudischer said, she didn’t think the results would change her opinion now, and she would hate them to spend money on a site survey that would not change her mind.
Malcolmson said that they have received mixed messages from IC about what will happen if they do not support the application. Fox said IC might propose negotiations between the LTC and GRS.
Malcolmson also noted that submissions from the public suggested that other broadcasting options are available to GRS. A submission from Gabriolan Renee de Jong in the LTC’s meeting agenda package says that, unlike the Chernoff Drive location which will require “repeaters” to reach the entire island, CHLY radio in Nanaimo is able to reach all of Gabriola from its tower on Cottle Hill, and “would welcome more community programs from Gabriolans”. De Jong also states that if GRS prefers to broadcast from its own frequency, CHLY could “receive such programming and retransmit it … on GRS’ behalf”.
However Dylan Perry, program manager for CHLY, said that if CKGI wants to transmit from 87.9 FM via the Cottle Hill tower, it would need its own transmitter to do so. He didn’t know whether there is still room on the tower, which is owned and rented by Circom Electronics.
Perry also said he’d heard that CHLY reception on parts of Gabriola is “not so good”.
Submissions also suggest CKGI could broadcast via the Internet.
Trustees resolved to tell IC they do not support the tower application, and to send IC their list of reasons, along with Fox’s report and the community input they have received.
|The Flying Shingle, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada ~ editor@FlyingShingle.com||Web design: Innovative Illusions (Paul Rudyk) ~ webmaster@FlyingShingle.com|