While most of us have a love-hate relationship with our cell phones, it’s often a straight up hate-hate relationship when it comes to cell towers. Cell towers are generally ugly, imposing, and put in precisely the place where most people can see them. Every year, the Ward 7 office gets dozens of complaints from concerned residents worried about cell phone towers being built in their neighbourhood.
Over the past fifteen years, cell phone towers have become increasingly prolific throughout the City of Calgary. Because the number of cell phone users in Calgary have been steadily increasing, service providers must build more towers to maintain the level of service. The growing number of smart phones causes additional strain: one smartphone requires the equivalent radio frequency capacity of 35 cell phones!
So what role does the City, and the Ward 7 office, play in the placement of cell towers? Unfortunately, not as much as we’d like. This is because “telecommunication antenna structures” are under the jurisdiction of Industry Canada, who approves or rejects cell phone tower applications. As a result, we do not have the same authority as we do over other structures, like buildings, bridges, or interchanges.
Although we don’t have veto power when it comes to cell towers, the City is consulted for its opinion, and applications get sent to the respective community association and Ward alderman. In certain cases, public consultation meetings are required for cell tower proposals. Industry Canada can choose to accept or reject the application based on recommendations made by the City. If a company requests the installation of a cell tower on City property, the City can choose whether or not to accept the application based on the regulations outlined in the Telecommunication Antenna Structures on Municipal Property policy.
Finally, even though the City doesn’t get much say as to where cell towers are built, we do have limited influence over design. As of 1999, the City no longer supports lattice-work cell towers, preferring instead monopole towers or towers camouflaged in high structures (such as church steeples, street lights, clock towers, etc.). We are always looking for creative ways to hide these structures, so if you have any suggestions, let us know!
As a citizen, the most important thing to do is to become informed. The City has put together a very comprehensive short video that we encourage anyone concerned with cell towers to watch. Although the role of the Ward 7 office is somewhat constrained on this issue, please feel free to contact us if you have suggestions or questions at 403-268-2430. You can even make the call from your cell phone!
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.