IS the City of Winnipeg really going to agree to the construction of a 36.5-metre-tall cellphone tower in Norwood, in the midst of a residential neighbourhood, without regard to the guidelines that the city itself established in the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy?

Opinion

IS the City of Winnipeg really going to agree to the construction of a 36.5-metre-tall cellphone tower in Norwood, in the midst of a residential neighbourhood, without regard to the guidelines that the city itself established in the Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy?

At a virtual town hall meeting on Feb. 24 sponsored by Rogers, the company proposing to build the tower, Norwood residents were unanimous in voicing their opposition to the location.

Concerns have been raised since the policy was introduced about whether it goes far enough to protect city residents from the impact of cell towers in their community, so, at a minimum, it should be strictly followed when it comes to objecting to towers proposed for locations the policy deems unsuitable. The policy is clear when it comes to where cell towers do not belong — at sites such as this one, within a residential neighbourhood, on the banks of the Seine River, and where it impacts the community’s enjoyment of Heather Park.

At a virtual town hall meeting on Feb. 24 sponsored by Rogers, the company proposing to build the tower, Norwood residents were unanimous in voicing their opposition to the location. Speaker after speaker lined up to voice concerns, which included: the documented health impacts of living in close proximity to a cell tower (backed by Canadian doctors and international scientists); the addition of a hideously high tower with the potential to hold multiple antenna arrays to a neighbourhood with nothing but low-rise buildings; a potentially substantial reduction of residential property values (concerns which have since been validated by a letter of opinion from an experienced local realtor); and the negative impact that a tower in the flora- and fauna-filled Seine River corridor, bordering the neighbourhood green space known as Heather Park, would have on an important urban wildlife habitat and the land the community uses for leisure and recreation in all seasons.

The city’s antenna policy validates these concerns. This policy, adopted by city council in 2015, lays out specific locations where cell towers should and should not be built. The city policy specifically discourages cell towers from being built in residential neighbourhoods, presumably due to the effects on health and residential property values local residents spoke out against. It discourages cell towers from being built in front of residential windows, doors, balconies and frontages, presumably due to the unsightly appearance. It discourages cell towers from being built on riverbank lands and in neighbourhood parks, green spaces and natural areas, presumably due to the impact on wildlife, vegetation and human enjoyment.

Instead, the city policy encourages cell towers to be built in far less harmful and impactful locations such as industrial and commercial areas. It states the towers should be attached to, or located near, buildings that are similarly tall, not standing alone in a sea of residential housing. It states that towers should be built in busy transportation corridors already filled with concrete and traffic, not on the side of a leafy riverbank next to a park where people play with their children and walk their pets.

It is clear this proposal should not be allowed to proceed. It simply does not fit within the policy put into force by our elected council, which carefully considered where cell towers should and should not go, based on the negative impact they can have on the city and its residents if towers are located in the wrong kind of location.

The city’s planning department is aware of the proposed location, but has not yet received final documentation from Rogers that is necessary to begin the review.

The City of Winnipeg must do the right thing: stand by its antenna policy and state that it does not concur with the construction of such a huge tower in this neighbourhood, just as it did when a similarly inappropriate location in Charleswood was recently considered. The residents of Norwood deserve no less.

We trust the city will make this decision in accordance with council’s adopted policy document and, in the best interest of the community, issue a letter of non-concurrence.

Melissa Grabowsky represents Norwood Residents Against the Youville Tower, a group of residents who live in the immediate area of the proposed tower and/or use the park and river that would be affected by the tower’s placement.