Nova Chemicals communication tower survives appeal

Nova Chemicals can go ahead with a 46-metre communication tower on its Joffre site after a Lacombe County landowner’s appeal was rejected.

Nova Chemicals can go ahead with a 46-metre communication tower on its Joffre site after a Lacombe County landowner’s appeal was rejected.

Sherry and Douglas Brock, who raise cattle and farm nearby, launched an appeal against the tower, arguing it will reduce their property value and could pose a health risk.

The county’s subdivision and development appeal board rejected their appeal, saying the tower’s radio frequency levels are well within Health Canada’s acceptable standards.

The board was also not convinced that the tower would devalue the Brocks’ property, noting the Brocks “did not provide any evidence to support their claim.”

Sherry said they are not happy with the decision but there’s little they can do.

She believes the onus is unfairly put on landowners to prove that a proposed development will affect them.

“It’s kind of difficult because when you go to the appeal board you’re expected to put all the expense out in order to prove that they’re going to harm you.”

She and her husband, a cancer survivor whose family has farmed the land for a century, don’t have the resources to hire consultants to prove how the tower will affect their property value or pose a potential health risk.

“It’ll be a big tower. I will be able to see out of my kitchen window. People pay big prices for views and it is a nice view.”

While Nova provided health and safety information in response to her requests, she felt someone from the company should have visited to explain further.

In April, Lacombe County’s municipal planning commission approved the company’s request for the tower near a pump house about two km west of the complex.

The towers — which will bring the number of towers serving the site to three — are required to improve hand-held radio communications and safety.

The tower is a low-power private communication system and not a Wi-Fi or cellphone tower.

At some locations, workers are out of contact with the plant, which raises operating and safety issues, particularly when it comes to emergency response. Another similar tower will be built at the northeast corner of the site.

Van Hemmen said he was disappointed the Brocks felt their concerns had not been addressed at the May 27 appeal hearing but felt Nova had done reasonable consultation with the community.

The communication towers are considered a very low-impact addition that fall well within health and safety guidelines. In fact, a similar tower has been in place the plant’s main entrance for years with no issue.

“It’s not something that from our past history has posed any health or safety concerns for us,” he said. The Brocks were invited to visit the plant and see the existing tower to discuss any concerns but did not take the company up on the offer.

Property value impacts are very difficulty to determine. The site is already partly industrial because of a nearby pumping station and the surrounding land is intended for agriculture and not slated for future residential development.

The tower site was chosen to avoid disruption of viable agricultural land and to ensure minimal nuisance to neighbouring property owners.

Dale Freitag, Lacombe County’s planning manager, said Nova has met all of its regulatory requirements from the county and other bodies such as Industry Canada and Health Canada.

“If someone makes an appeal the onus has to be on the appellant to show why they feel this use is not appropriate for that location,” he said. Otherwise, any concern could be raised whether it holds water or not.

If the appeal board agrees with the appellant’s concerns, they could ask for more information from the applicant.

The same process applies whether the applicant is a small landowner or a multibillion-dollar corporation.

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