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Opposition mounts against proposed 5G cell tower in Penetang

Tower would 'bisect the spires (and) destroy regal character' of historic church, says resident; Mayor vows town won't make any 'rush decisions'

Approximately 75 people jammed into a special meeting of Penetanguishene council Tuesday night to protest the construction of a 30-metre (100-foot) 5G cell tower behind St. Ann's parish.

Almost everyone in the audience was against the tower, proposed for 17 Poyntz St. by Share Tower, on the Knights of Columbus property. Council heard three delegations followed by questions from 18 audience members.

Michelle Vaillancourt made the first delegation at the meeting held in Brian Orser Hall at the Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre.

She said St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church is the most significant building in Penetanguishene, noting the monopole tower, if built immediately behind the church, would "bisect the spires" and "destroy its regal character," by being so prominent and sporting flashing red lights.

Vaillancourt reminded council that a petition against the tower has more than 1,100 signatures — so far.

A notification about the tower only went to 15 land owners, five of whom don't live in Penetanguishene, said Vallancourt. She said most immediate neighbours in the project area were not notified.

"There should have been a broad and general notification, not just 15," she said.

Vaillancourt also noted the Town of Penetanguishene does not have a tower protocol in place to deal with these types of projects.

The second delegation was from a woman named Melissa; she only provided her first name.

Melissa detailed her sensitivity to electromagnetic fields which, for her, has resulted in serious health issues, forcing her to quit working as a pilot, leading to a lack of housing stability, as she can't live near 5G towers. 

She said she suffered from hormone changes when the first tower went up in the area where she had lived previously.

"After the second tower went up, I began getting heating on my hands and pigmentation on my skin, increased migraines, nausea, foggy headedness, immense fatigue, nerve damage to my spine and a sudden decrease in my vision. It was later determined that my blood was clumping up when exposed to wireless, something you would see in cancer patients," she said.

"But the worst of my symptoms is an increase in my body voltage when exposed. I built up a charge and I start to shock myself at whatever I touch. It feels like being electrocuted 24/7. I can feel the wireless signals on my skin from the direction they are coming from."

Melissa added that she's been displaced from her home three times due to the construction of wireless technology. She's even resorted to living in a tent, including in winter. When living in the wilderness, she said her symptoms disappeared and her visual acuity returned.

Melissa and her husband moved to Penetanguishene from Grand Bend last April after a 5G antennas were installed there.

"Moving to Penetang literally saved my life and now my new home is not safe," she said.

Cheyenne Zierler spoke on behalf of Shared Tower, saying that downtown Penetanguishene is an ideal location because 5G radio frequency waves only travel 500 to 600 metres. (This is less than 3G and 4G which travel up to two kilometres, she noted.)

She detailed other site locations that were eliminated for one reason or another, including the Royal Canadian Legion at 2 Poyntz St. 

The tower would meet growing demand as the population increases, she added.

Zierler explained that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) regulates wireless communication equipment such as Wi-fi, cell phones and cell phone towers to make sure they meet human exposure limits under Safety Code 6.

Zierler said that Shared Tower meets all the guidelines under that code. She also said the company took out an ad in the Midland Mirror on Aug. 3 notifying the public of the project.

She stressed the town is not the approving authority as that comes from the feds. She said the company is, however, hoping for a "letter of concurrence" from Penetanguishene.

"There is a lot of public interest" in the topic and council is not going to make any "rush decisions," said Mayor Doug Rawson. He added the town has begun work on a tower protocol.

Council supported a motion for a staff report that would include information from Shared Tower and public comments. Council will vote on whether or not to draft a letter of concurrence at a future meeting.

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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