HALIFAX – About 60 people gathered in the gymnasium of Highland Park Junior High School this evening to voice their opposition to a proposal to build a 90-foot telecommunications tower across the street from the school.
About one third of those present rose to express concerns about the proposal to representatives of HRM Planning Services, the Halifax Water Commission, and Bell Mobility, which has put forth the proposal.
The project would also incorporate new communications equipment for the Water Commissionn.
Residents cited health and safety concerns, loss of one of the few green spaces in the community, and aesthetic damage in opposition to the project, as presenters mostly listened quietly. No one in the audience spoke favourably of the proposal.
“I’m not a luddite,” said Penelope Jackson, a nearby resident, in response to Bell representative Pamela Kennedy’s assertion that the new tower is needed to meet customer demand.
“But I’ve never had any problem with any cell service,” said Jackson, who also said she had polled nearly 100 of her neighbours on the issue and received similar responses.
Moderator Dali Salih of HRM’s Planning Services department reminded the audience several times that HRM’s jurisdiction on the project only applies to the question of zoning, and on that question it is only empowered to make recommendations to Industry Canada, which will make the final decision on the project.
Still, many respondents spoke of uncertainties surrounding the potential health effects of prolonged experience to low-level radiation.
“Living within 400 metres of this is clearly unsafe,” said Kendall Arthur, a neighbour of the proposed site. Arthur cited the Naila Study, which found that cancer rates tripled in a community adjacent to a telecommunications tower in Germany over a 10-year period.
Pamela Kennedy assured the audience that the proposed tower’s radiation levels fell well within Health Canada’s safety guidelines.
However, several audience members countered that those guidelines are insufficient. “If this project was in Sweden, it never would have got through the door,” said one speaker.
None of the presenters answered when asked if they would themselves live near the proposed tower.
HRM North End Councillor Jerry Blumenthal informed the audience that they should make their opinions on the project known to him through petitions or e-mails, which he would then put on the public record at HRM’s peninsular community council meeting.
No public hearing will be held on the proposal.