Grande Prairie City council continued their ongoing discussion and debate surrounding cell tower locations throughout the city during Tuesday’s committee meetings.
This time around, council opted not to support a proposed telecommunication tower on City Furniture property, sandwiched between Royal Oaks and Avondale.
Prior to the meeting, city administration advised council to avoid supporting the tower based on its infringement on the city-wide Land Use Bylaw that prohibits cell towers from being placed near residences within six times the tower’s height.
Additionally, the tower would violate the city’s “High Visibility Corridor” policy that prohibits telecom towers from “negatively impacting” the corridor. Councillor Dylan Bressey spoke on the matter, saying it is a priority of city council to keep the corridor clear of any obstruction as it functions as a “first impression” for people visiting the city.
“The high visibility corridor is on the major thoroughfares of our city that get lots of traffic, especially out-of-town traffic,” he says. “We’ve got higher aesthetic standards there than everywhere else in the city, just to make sure that we’re giving a really good first impression to the people that are visiting.”
In regards to the larger issue of cell tower debate in council, Deputy Mayor Gladys Blackmore says there are two separate debates among her colleagues.
“I think there are really two separate issues, [first], it falls too close to residences based on our policies and bylaws, it’s within six times the height of the tower, and so it is clearly not meeting our own requirements, and our own bylaws,” she says.
Citing the recent approval of a telecommunications tower near St. Joeseph Catholic High School, Blackmore says council is growing uncomfortable with the seemingly increased number of cell towers near venues like schools and public facilities.
“Not all councillors are comfortable with putting extra cell towers close to schools or sporting fields,” she says. “It seems that we don’t have enough knowledge to comfortably make that determination.”
The city opting to not provide a letter of support does not bar the tower from being constructed, however, as the city has no right to deny and ultimately, the final decision will fall on the federal government’s Innovation, Science, and Economic Development department.