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Surrey council moves to update city’s telecommunication antennas policy

But councillor says health and safety protocols are nearly 40 years old

Surrey council has decided to tweak the city’s antenna system siting policy, voting on Monday March 8 to amend a bylaw to improve wireless coverage and capacity for Surrey residents.

Council on Feb. 22 approved a staff report calling for the city’s telecommunications antenna system siting policy to be updated to require a development permit for antennas affixed to buildings and variance permits for those higher than 12 metres, or 40 feet, that are attached to the ground and higher than three metres, or 10 feet if attached to the roof of a building.

A corporate report authored by Jean Lamontagne, Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, and Rob Costanzo, general manager of corporate services, notes that demand for wireless service has significantly increased over the past decade for smart phones and tablets, challenging the telecommunications industry to keep up with the infrastructure needed to ensure “sufficient coverage and capacity.”

The report notes telecommunications towers have evolved into “many shapes and sizes, from small units on lamp and utility poles to the familiar tall towers” which are now referred to as antenna systems.

Meantime, at the same meeting council approved Brett Investments Inc.’s request for a development variance permit to increase the maximum height of a free-standing telecommunications tower to 42 metres from 12 metres to “provide current and future network capacity upgrades” aimed at increasing service to the surrounding area.

Steven Pettigrew, the lone council member to vote against this, said while he understands the need for telecommunications infrastructure he’s also concerned about health and safety protocols being used by Health Canada and the federal government for this particular tower and others in future.

“These protocols that are in place, they’re almost 40 years old and we’ve had so many updates and changes,” Pettigrew said. “I know this is not a municipal issue but if enough municipalities raise a concern or if it goes to FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities), I really believe this needs to be done at a higher level and so I at least have to say something, but I am concerned about the outdated health standards being used for all these type of telecommunications towers moving forward.”

“Let’s update things, make sure everybody is safe and then we can continue forward” he told council.


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