Residents of Esquimalt building concerned about potential effect of cellphone antennas

Non-profit housing operator insists cell tower revenue is important to keep rent affordable for tenants

Constance Court resident Giovanni Borella is concerned about the cellphone towers installed on the roof of the complex.

Giovanni Borella pays $375 per month for a top-floor apartment with all new fixtures and a great view.

But he’s willing to give it all up to get away from what he fears are damaging radio frequencies overhead.

The Greater Victoria Housing Society, which runs his 52-unit building in Esquimalt, leases space on its rooftop to three telecommunications companies, which have set up numerous cellphone antennas.

“Some of the research I’ve been doing on my own indicates that there is a potential health hazard for so many of those cell phone towers to be in close proximity to people,” Borella said.

“I’m literally 15 feet from this conglomeration of cellphone towers.”

Several current or past residents of Constance Court, at 1325 Esquimalt Rd., have brought their concerns recently to Esquimalt council.

Council directed township staff to look into whether local governments have the ability to respond to this type of concern.

The short answer is no.

“Courts have held that parameters such as the height and location of the antenna sites are vital to telecommunications,” stated a staff report discussed at the June 18 council meeting.

Therefore, local government regulations do not apply if they impair the ability of telecommunications companies to place antennas in optimal locations, it continued.

Esquimalt council found the answer unacceptable.

“Municipalities should have jurisdiction, just as they do over all other land-use decisions, over the location and level of these telecommunications antennas in their community,” Coun. Tim Morrison said on Tuesday.

“Municipalities would then be able to set an appropriate community consultation and approval process, which currently doesn’t exist.”

Council voted unanimously June 18 to send a resolution to that effect to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Admitting he is no expert on the health and safety of the antennas, Morrison said community aesthetics are of “huge concern” to him.

“When you start putting excessive amounts of these antennas on rooftops all over the community, it starts to have a really negative affect.”

The issue gets more complicated, however, when it comes to non-profits.

Kaye Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society, says the antennas represent a significant source of revenue.

Leases with three telecommunications companies bring in $45,500 annually, most of which is allocated to opening new affordable housing projects.

“We’re always looking for money to do our business and keep our housing affordable, so it’s very important,” Melliship said.

While she acknowledged residents’ concerns, she points out the antennas are properly licensed and regulated.

“We’re going under the assumption that they are perfectly safe, and if you don’t believe the science, then you have to make your own choices,” she said. “There’s nothing more we can do about that.”

Constance Court resident Attila Szabo, however, questions residents’ ability to make a free choice.

While condo owners can vote on whether to install communications towers, he and other residents at Constance Court weren’t given opportunity for input. Moreover, they can’t easily find another subsidized apartment, he argued.

“The people that want to move out of here are kind of stuck (saying), ‘Gee, I don’t really feel it’s healthy for me, but if I move, I lose my subsidy,’” he said.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?

Here is Health Canada’s official view on wireless technology:

“Cellphone towers consist of antennas and electronic equipment which serve as hubs for cellphones and local wireless networks. … Health concerns are sometimes expressed by people who live or work near cellphone tower antennas located on towers, poles, water tanks or rooftops. Yet, the consensus of the scientific community is that RF energy from cellphone towers is too low to cause adverse health effects in humans.”

Just Posted

Mayor David Screech says Camp Namegans has run its course

Break-in on private property in View Royal linked to homeless campers

Island Health encourages sexual assault survivors to #TrustYourself

New social media campaign urges survivors of sexual assault to seek medical care

Resident charged $48,350 fine for poisoning large Oak Bay tree

The district says this amount represents the appraised value of the tree

BC Ferries not as full as reported due to ability to book consecutive sailings

Multiple reservation booking strategy artificially inflates BC Ferries “current conditions”

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. veteran combats PTSD in the ring and on the farm

Cam Tetrault is a valuable contributor at Quesnel’s Two Rivers Boxing Club

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

Most Read