Town of Peace River Council went through first reading to make changes to the Communication Tower Land- Use Bylaw.
Council’s administration has been reviewing the bylaw for some time after an inquiry was received from a telecommunication company about construction of a tower within the town.
“Administration realized there were some changes that needed to be made in the Land-Use Bylaw (LUB) to update the siting of towers,” says Mayor Elaine Manzer.
“The towers are federally regulated developments and as such do not require a development permit to be issued by a municipality which the Town’s bylaw was requiring. The existing bylaw directed communication towers be enabled in Community Development Districts and Agricultural Urban Reserve districts and required development permits.”
Manzer added that the federal process requires companies to discuss tower site locations with council, ensuring the Town’s processes are respected, address reasonable and relevant concerns of the town, and obtain the land use authorities concurrence in writing.
“The Town can bring forth concerns about locations and the proposed bylaw does encourage towers to be located on roof tops or side mounted on buildings greater than 12 metres high,” she says.
“The proposed bylaw also discourages placement of new towers in residential areas, environmentally sensitive areas, top of bank areas and riparian areas.”
In addition, the bylaw directs council to request environmental or geo- technical assessment prior to construction when necessary. Manzer explains part of the reason this change was considered is to ensure all procedural documents align with one another.
“It is important that all town planning documents are consistent with each other and updated as new information occurs or provincial or federal regulations change,” she says.
“Consistency helps with transparency and helps to shorten the timelines for projects.”
Council’s development officer is the administrator for land-use issues and the towers will fit under the officer’s duties. Because of this, they have the authority to issue a statement of concurrence or non-concurrence when it comes to communication towers. This is in line with all other LUB responsibilities.
Now that council has passed first reading, Peace River will soon be holding a public hearing to address the changes. At the hearing, the public will be able to voice thoughts on the proposed bylaw.
Before construction of a new telecommunication tower, companies must first share existing towers with other companies prior to building new ones. If that is not possible, they have to submit a plan to the local municipality. Afterwards the company will notify local residents of upcoming consultations and they will then consider the community’s views. Once the consultations phase is done and the company and municipality agree on terms, the tower has to built within three years.
“Telecommunications are vitally important to most aspects of personal lives and businesses and although the town has had high speed underground fibre since 2014, towers are vital for the region,” says Manzer.