French Creek mother pleads her case against cell phone tower

Woman says she lives within 200 metres of where Telus plans to erect tower; plus other news from RDN meeting Tuesday night

A French Creek mother with her second child on the way is fighting to keep a Telus cell phone tower out of her Sandpiper subdivision, fearing potential health hazards for her family.

“Can you tell me conclusively there will be no harm to my daughter?,” Genelle Conn, holding back tears,  asked the Regional District of Nanaimo board at Tuesday night’s meeting, to no response. “If not, then it’s not appropriate to experiment on them.”

Conn’s efforts were to no avail as the board passed a motion stating the RDN is satisfied with Telus’ public consultation process.

Conn said she lives within 200 metres of the proposed cell phone tower site located on Telus-owned property at 1421 Sunrise Drive.

“I do have a cell phone, yes, and reception in French Creek is spotty, I also understand there’s a saying ‘Not In My Backyard’ but I’m also a mother with a second child on the way.”

According to Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé, the proposed cell phone tower comes in direct response to a growing demand for enhanced wireless capacity in the area likely attributed to the proliferation of cell phones. The government of Canada reports in 1987 there were approximately 100,000 cell phone users, by the end of 2010 that number rose to exceed 24 million.

While Telus officials confirmed they consulted with the French Creek, Qualicum Beach and Eaglecrest Residents Associations, Conn said the first she heard about the proposed tower was through a newspaper article last week.

“How was the message delivered to the public? What kind of consultation was done? I live really close (to the proposed tower site) and nobody told me. I couldn’t even find a number for the French Creek Residents Association,” Conn said. “I find it interesting the only location for the cell phone tower is right in the middle of a subdivision.”

According to Health Canada, “radio frequency (RF) energy from cell phone towers is too low to cause adverse health effects in humans…RF exposures from cell phone towers are typically well below Health Canada’s exposure standards.”

But Conn said “Health Canada has been wrong about things before…They can only use the information they have today, they can’t look at information from 20 years from now.” She worries about potential health risks for developing children, like her own.

Conn said “although it hasn’t been proven, I don’t want to look back in 10 years and have a  kid with leukemia.”

Conn passionately and tearfully pleaded with the board to defer voting on sending a letter of concurrence to Telus, the approving body for cell phone towers in Canada.

This discussion Tuesday night came after an RDN electoral area planning committee meeting earlier this month where board members received Telus’ public consultation overview stating 145 comments were received in response to the project (140 in support, five opposed).

Telus is proposing a 17.5-metre monopole tower structure on a parcel of their own land, which currently houses a Telus facility. The tower is proposed for the centre of the lot, approximately nine metres from the Island Highway. Telus officials told The NEWS earlier this month the tower could be erect as early as the spring of 2016, but they still need the green light from Industry Canada before proceeding.

Other highlights from Tuesday’s regular RDN meeting:

• The board directed staff to send a letter to Island Health thanking them for their homelessness funding and indicating that there is a need for sustained funding to achieve the goal of ending homelessness.

• The board directed staff to distribute and use the Regional Growth Strategy 2014 annual report as part of their efforts to raise awareness and education about the RGS and its implementation.

• The board passed a motion that the Blueback Community Park Development Plan second option be endorsed on the condition that a qualified plant restoration ecologist be hired to complete on-site review and provide comment on how to best restore native vegetation.

• The board passed a motion that the Taxi Saver and Taxi Supplement Programs, part of the HandyDART program, be implemented.

• The board voted to fund $10,000 for 2015 for the Oceanside Elementary School Playground, Phase 1, from the Community Parks Reserves.

• Coombs/Errington alternate director Jack McLean made a motion to allocate $11,000 from the Area F Community Works Fund to the construction of a 120-metre portion of the Arrowsmith Community Trail on the Price Road allowance. The motion was carried.

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