Gabriola radio tower proposal raises concerns

Gabriola Radio Society’s proposal to build a radio tower is raising concerns among residents.

The society wants to build a 40-metre tower on property located at the end of Chernoff Drive.

During the public meeting hosted by the Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee last month, residents voiced opposition.

“The neighbours had extreme concerns,” said Ken Zakreski, radio society president. “The process was beneficial. The community had a chance to voice concerns, even though some were out of the scope of the tower proposal. I think it brought some calm to the process.”

Zakreski said the meeting was productive and the Islands Trust did a good job of mediating questions and explaining what Industry Canada considered relative to the proposal decision.

The meeting also enabled the society and Trust representatives to address concerns and misinformation that was circulating, he said.

A common concern among those gathered was potential health effects of the tower.

Zakreski said the tower will be operated well below Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 regulations that govern the acceptable amount of radiation emitted.

Concerns about the esthetics of the tower were also raised, but Zakreski said the tower would be built to resemble a Douglas fir tree that has been struck by lightning to better blend into the environment.

Residents also question whether a cell reception antenna would be added to the tower in the future.

Zakreski said at this point, the society does not intend to pursue any deal that would add a cell reception antenna; however, the society says that is a separate issue.

According to the Island’s Trust document – Process Overview Gabriola Radio Society Radio Tower Proposal – there are three concerns that aren’t considered by Industry Canada when making a decision about radio towers and antenna.

Industry Canada doesn’t consider disputes about the service that aren’t related to the antenna installation, the effects the proposed antenna will have on property values and questions regarding whether Safety Code 6, local bylaws or other legislation are valid and need reform.

Sheila Malcolmson, one of three Gabriola Island Trust local committee members and chairwoman of the broader Islands Trust council, said much of the community supports the idea of a community radio station, but the challenge is balancing that support with tower concerns and the desire to maintain their lifestyle.

The society has pursued the quest for a community based radio station on 98.7 FM to provide local musicians, actors, and community groups a platform to broadcast their talent and ideas.

That pursuit included butting heads with Rogers Media when Rogers applied under the CRTC to build a repeater station on Salt Spring Island to boost its signal. If that application was approved it would have made 98.7 FM unusable because channels are not allowed to interfere with each other.

The Gabriola Island Trust is accepting comments on the issue until Wednesday (July 25). People are asked to send comments by e-mailing, faxing 250-247-7514 or mailing Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee at 700 North Rd., Gabriola Island, B.C., V0R 1X3.

A staff report is expected by today (July 19), including the planner's recommendations on the issue.

The issue will be discussed at the next local Trust committee meeting on July 26. Trustees could decide to support or oppose the proposal and send their decision to Industry Canada, or to defer the matter and conduct further research.

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