Radio Tower decision deferred to September 6
The Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee has deferred until September 6 making a decision on whether to send a letter of non-objection to Industry Canada in regards to the Gabriola Radio Society (GRS) proposed radio tower construction for Chernoff Road.
As the decision has been deferred, the deadline for the public to submit input in regards to the Radio Society’s application has been extended to Aug. 24.
Two key pieces of information were cited as missing from the application: the legal land survey requested by the Trust Committee at its June 28 meeting, as well as a report on the environmental condition of the property around the proposed tower site.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said, “I want to acknowledge the GRS has asked us to pay for part of the legal survey. I’m not proposing we do that. We don’t do it for anyone else and applicants are supposed to pay their own way. We’re paying for everything else on this one and it is having an impact. It is not the practice of the Trust Committee for any applicant, so there is no discrimination here.”
Trustees said the decision would be deferred to September to allow additional time for the land survey to be done and to request the Gabriola Radio Society provide a description of the natural environment, any sensitive ecosystems or other important habitat areas within 120 metres of the subject property, and mitigation of impacts to such areas.
Planner Chloe Fox said only one referral response had been received.
GRS Director John Hague said there had been communication from Fire Chief Rick Jackson in regards to one of the covenants for fire protection on the property.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said the email from Rick was a response to a specific question the applicant asked, but is not a total referral response.
“It is one of the questions answered.”
Gisele cited an Industry Canada regulation under land use planning restrictions, which pointed out that provincial or municipal land use restrictions that relate to radio communication facilities are considered to be a site selection factor.
She quoted, “Generally, engineering consultants recommend against siting radio facilities in an area where land use restrictions expressly attempt to prohibit them.”
The same regulation also points out that ancillary structures to towers, such as production studios, can no doubt be regulated like any other building within regulations.
“Restrictions which relate to such ancillary structures may discourage the siting of an antenna.”
Gisele explained that the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw defines public utilities and excludes radio towers in the definition of such. She had concerns there was no rezoning process happening if the Land Use Bylaw prohibited the construction of radio towers.
Trust Committee Chair David Graham asked if there had been rezoning considered.
Gisele said no, as the federal government was overriding the local government.
“But if the community says radio towers require public input and rezoning ... it’s obvious what the intent of the community is in the Official Community Plan and in the definitions in the Land Use Bylaw.”
Sheila said, “In the big picture, I think there are a lot of reasons in our OCP and in the public input to not support the siting of the tower where it is being proposed. That said, I’m inclined to support the staff recommendation to defer the decision.
"I’d hate to have Industry Canada say the LTC came to a decision prematurely.
“We have information that is outstanding.
“The same time, I appreciate this is taking up planning time, volunteer time; I don’t lightly support recommending taking another month, but it feels the most responsible to say we’ve taken the steps, especially because there is this element of [Industry Canada] putting responsibility on the LTC to find middle ground.”
Gisele asked, “How are you going to mitigate? The tower is either there or it is not. Paint it? What could we come up with?”
Sheila said she had one suggestion.
“Some of the concerns are that the operation may not be financially sustainable and neither we or the feds are able to control who operates the tower in the future. I understand [opponents] express the reticence it may not be the friendly GRS operating it in the future.
“We don’t have the mechanisms to control ownership.”
She said she recognized the concerns that financial viability of the operation is questionable and there may be incentive to lease out space to corporate operators.
“It is also a different rationale to say we’re willing to do this for local rather than Rogers.”
She said one suggestion to deal with these concerns would be to ask if the landowner would willingly and voluntarily limit ownership to the Gabriola Radio Society.
“When I checked with Industry Canada they said the landowner could do that, if the applicant voluntarily bound themselves.
“Mr. Lorette, if he wanted to, could sign a covenant saying his permission to use the piece of land is for the Gabriola Radio Society and if [the society] ceases, the tower has to come down and no one can use the tower except the GRS.
“The landowner, if he is not willing to do that, we know we have exhausted all middle ground.”
Gisele said that sounded like a good in-between, but added much of the opposition was to the tower itself.
“It is the tower itself, the idea of having that structure there. I’m not sure that is going to satisfy the concerns of the people I’ve been reading.”
Sheila said she wanted to make sure the Trust Committee has explored all options.
If the trustees turn down the application, Industry Canada will, if requested by either the applicant or the Trust, look at mediation to find middle ground.
Gisele asked if the GRS would be willing to be party to that covenant but Sheila said, “it is only the landowner that can sign this.
“This is the same as the fire department deciding on hosting a tower for Rogers.
Gisele said she could support asking if such a covenant would be agreeable to the landowners, “as long as it doesn’t mean that if that condition is fulfilled that the application would then be acceptable from my position.”
Sheila said she agreed saying, “I’m remaining open-minded; this would be just one piece.”
Gisele said, “We will be making the decision on Sept. 6. If we don’t get the materials, we will make a decision without those.”