With its hands figuratively tied as a municipality, Penetanguishene council was advised to join members of the public in voicing any concerns for the location of a proposed telecommunications tower that could visually impact St. Ann’s Parish.
To strengthen telecommunications, a new, 30-metre (100-foot) tower was proposed for 17 Poyntz St., which is the location of the Knights of Columbus Hall and Knight Haven bowling lanes.
Although the tentative location would place the common tri-pole tower in a four-square-metre enclosure to the rear of that property, concerns arose during a recent committee of the whole meeting when members of council shared their thoughts on the possible visual implications the tower could have for the landmark of St. Ann’s Parish at 20 Robert St. W.
After residents approached council members with concerns regarding the proposal, Coun. Suzanne Marchand, transportation and environmental services section chair, looked to staff for an explanation on the process.
Public works director Bryan Murray said that in the weeks prior, staff had discussed alternative locations in town with Cornwall-based tower developer Shared Tower, the proponent for the project.
“They ultimately decided against (other locations),” said Murray.
He noted Shared Tower was looking to receive comments to include in its application to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC), the federal governing body.
“This would be an opportunity for these property owners to submit comments on the application, and those would be considered as part of the application,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it is a federally regulated application. The municipality has no jurisdiction in terms of the approval, and our involvement at this time is merely as a property owner within the radius (at 10 Robert St. W.) of this proposed installation.”
Marchand looked to staff and fellow committee members for a way to let Shared Tower and ISEDC know council had concerns.
“I would hope, as we’ve received notice in terms of proximity, that we, as the Town of Penetanguishene, will also be putting forward our concerns in terms of the location, especially being so close to quite a landmark ... St. Ann’s Parish is very much a well-recognized area and institution in our community,” she said.
Despite comments closing on a deadline of Aug. 24, due before the next meeting, when council could formally ratify a committee of the whole direction to staff, Mayor Doug Rawson cautioned against bypassing the federal rules based on heightened emotions.
“I’m a little concerned that we’re going to make an official response from the municipality without following a process. With fairness, we don’t know what the (proponent’s) plans are, what their interests are,” he said.
“I’ve heard from members why they’re doing this and what their benefit is, and there’s a lot of positive things coming from their application, why they’re doing this. I think that’s pitting sides right now. We don’t have all the facts.”
Other council members shared their concerns. Coun. Bonita Desroches expressed she was “disappointed that the proponent did not see fit to find a different location,” while Coun. George Vadeboncoeur hoped other renderings of how the proposed tower would look in different locations could be provided in the future.
“It’s been hard for me to determine where the pole would be in relation to the two spires,” he said stated, “and whether you could actually see the pole at 100 feet if you’re looking at St. Anne’s church from Penetanguishene Bay.”
He added he had no problem with the location, but as for the look of towers: “They aren’t the greatest-looking things, but when they’re established, you kind of get used to them just being there.”
Marchand pressed her insistence the municipality have a proactive role in expressing concerns, but a suggestion from clerk Stacey Cooper and CAO Jeff Lees gave Marchand a viable option.
“The notice clearly states that the public is welcome to provide feedback,” said Lees. “If individual members of council as a member of the public want to provide their feedback, they certainly could through the forum that’s provided.”
Marchand agreed, adding, “Any member of our community, as well, should also take that into consideration.”
Information on the Shared Tower notice package for the proposed tower, including information on the Aug. 24 deadline for public commenting, can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.
Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.
Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.