Copper Ridge residents oppose cellphone tower

Copper Ridge residents like cellphones. They just don't want a cellphone tower in their neighbourhood. "Is this something that you would want in your backyard?" resident Tracey Twa asked city council Monday night.

Copper Ridge residents like cellphones. They just don’t want a cellphone tower in their neighbourhood.

“Is this something that you would want in your backyard?” resident Tracey Twa asked city council Monday night.

The city is considering signing a lease with Bell Mobility Inc. so the company can install a 28.5-metre cellphone tower in a treed park on Falcon Drive near Copper Ridge Place. A road needs to be built to the tower and the equipment shed. Bell would maintain the road.

The ten-year lease goes to council for first reading next week. It could be approved next month.

Bell has looked at commercial properties in the area, as well as lands belonging to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Yukon government, Pat Ross, manager of planning and building, told council. No one else was interested in having the cellphone tower. And the city has no plans to develop the park, said Ross. If this lease doesn’t pass, Bell will have to look at other sites in the neighbourhood. Increased data use on mobile phones means more towers are needed, he said.

Bell is required to consult with residents who live in the surrounding area, up to three times the height of the tower (85.5 metres). No one lives this close to the proposed tower.

But some residents are still opposing it.

“In no uncertain terms, a tower like this is ugly,” said Twa.

“Part of the reason I live in the Yukon is for the esthetics and the beauty. I do not look forward to, in the future, sitting on my back deck and instead of seeing trees and mountains, seeing a radio tower.”

The tower could harm people’s health. A lot of the science about the effects of cellphone towers are unknown, she said. “Will this issue come back to haunt us like asbestos and cigarettes?” Twa asked council.

People walk their dogs through that park and practise riding dirt bikes off jumps there, she said. The tower and road could disrupt this, and people may try to climb the tower, she said.

City administration is working on setting up a public meeting between the company and residents, Ross told council. The city has told Bell to leave the dirt-bike jumps where they are, and the company has no plans to pave the road to the tower, he said. A fence will be built around the tower.

And scientific studies show the health risks are minimal, said Ross.

The radiation from cellphone towers isn’t strong enough to change human DNA, Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s medical officer of health said in an interview this week. People are exposed to radiation every day from a variety of sources, from the sun to televisions and microwaves. Worrying about one specific source of radiation doesn’t really make sense, he said.

Radiation is strongest at the antennae. It can cause someone’s body temperature to rise, which is why there are safety standards for people who work near these towers, said Hanley.

Most of that energy disappears by the time it reaches land, he said. There’s no concrete scientific studies that show living near a cellphone tower can cause negative health effects, like cancer, he said. People are exposed to more radiation by holding cellphones up to their ears, said Hanley. That’s why people should use headphones when talking on cellphones or sending text messages.

The amount of radiation residents could be exposed to from a cellphone tower is well below the allowed amount in national health standards, Ross told council.

But that didn’t calm everyone’s concerns.

Coun. Betty Irwin is “a little suspicious,” she told her fellow councillors.

“I can’t imagine Health Canada coming down with any ruling that would oppose the telecommunications conglomerates that rule this country. I really can’t.”

The city has similar leases with Bell for towers on Selkirk Street in Riverdale and Pine Street in Porter Creek. The city attended a Riverdale Community Association meeting earlier this year to address citizens’ concerns. Coun. Dave Stockdale, who lives in Riverdale, attended that meeting. He “felt very satisfied” that all concerns were addressed, he said Monday.

Bell has also recently negotiated a lease to install a tower on a private property in an industrial area of Porter Creek. Bell sent notifications by mail to nearby property owners, and no concerns were raised. But the city needs to give final approval before the tower can be built. This tower could be approved next week.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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