Sparring over a proposed installation of a cellphone tower in St. John's has become more intense after the owner of the property confirmed that it has already signed a five-year conditional lease with Bell Mobility.
The company wants to put the structure in the middle of a residential area, and about 90 metres from St. Mary's Elementary School.
Anglican Homes Incorporated issued a release on Friday that said the agreement was signed in late July under the understanding that the tower has been properly approved and that relevant stakeholders have been consulted.
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However, the City of St. John's — one of those stakeholders — is not pleased with the proposition.
Dennis O'Keefe, mayor of St. John's, said there are mounting concerns from the city, as well as residents living in the proposed area.
"I think it's fair to say that we have some pretty serious concerns about the approach that Bell Mobility has taken on this whole issue right from the very beginning," he said.
Bell Mobility does not technically have to meet any other requirements because the tower it wants to build is short enough by 10 centimetres to exempt it from further consultation protocols that are in place for higher towers.
According to O'Keefe, if the company decided to move forward with the project without consultation it would upset the city and many residents.
"If they don't [do more consultation], then what they're doing is showing a disrespect for the governance of the city and a disrespect for people who are their customers and their users … and that would be an awful thing for them to do," he said.
St. John's South MP Ryan Cleary said the company's move does not surprise him.
Cleary said the federal NDP tried to introduce legislation that would require more consultation even with the smaller towers, but it was defeated in the House of Commons.
He said the best thing for the city to do is make clear its thoughts on the plan.
"The one alternative is for St. John's city council unanimously to write a letter of non-compliance, saying they don't agree with this cell tower," Cleary said.
"If that did happen, they'd work with the city to find another site — another acceptable site — for the cell tower, or maybe they'd go to industry Canada and make them lay down the law in terms of building a cell tower come hell or high water, or maybe they'd back off completely."
Cleary said Bell Mobility has assured that residents will have two weeks to send in their views before further advances are made on the tower.