Tower appeal rejected

A Rocky Mountain House-area couple have lost their bid to block construction of a fourth 90-metre telecommunications tower.

A Rocky Mountain House-area couple have lost their bid to block construction of a fourth 90-metre telecommunications tower.

Clearwater County’s subdivision and development appeal board rejected the appeal by Sharon and Jochen Rubeling to stop the tower from going up on a site half a kilometre from their home about five km south of Rocky.

“Of course, I’m disappointed,” said Sharon Rubeling. “I just think it’s a bigger issue than just one tower.

“There are no limits, and there is no will to set limits, on how many towers you can have in one geographical area.”

When travelling, Rubeling keeps an eye out for similar towers and, so far, she has not come across any other place in the province where four 90-metre towers are clustered so close together.

The Rubelings urged the county to create a policy on how many towers could be built in one area when the third one was built six years ago. That effort went nowhere, but she plans to raise the issue again.

“Our question to them at the time was how many is too many,” she said. “For us it was four. But is it six, is it 10?”

In its Dec. 17 decision, the appeal board notes there is no county policy governing how many towers can be erected on a property and they are a discretionary use on agricultural land.

The decision says the site is considered suitable for a tower and there is no evidence of a health or safety risk. The board also found that “no satisfactory evidence that the development would constitute a nuisance has been submitted.”

Also, the board was satisfied that Corridor Communication Inc., owner of the tower, has explored the possibility of using existing towers instead of a new one.

Rubeling said the problem is county approving authorities look at each tower application in isolation, without considering the number of towers already in place. She wants to see the cumulative impacts of the towers taken into account when new applications come up for approval.

As broadband service is expanded across Alberta, the tower issue is unlikely to go away. She thinks other levels of government should also be involved in establishing a policy on how many towers are allowed in certain areas.

She has taken her concerns to NavCanada, and the national transport, health and industry departments.

“Nobody cares. They each have their own little piece of the pie, but there’s nobody looking after the big picture.”

County manager Ron Leaf said the tower issue is complicated because Industry Canada is the approving authority for various technical issues, including the best location for antennas.

However, it’s an issue council will take a look at during a review of its Land Use Bylaw.

“Council is aware of the concern around density and the lack of control and it’s something they are going to be addressing in the new year,” he said.