Anti-Eastlink tower signs boosted along Highway 207
Landowners in the seaside community of Lawrencetown have erected three large billboards along Highway 207 in protest of a proposed Eastlink cellphone tower.
The signs are two metres wide and feature a picturesque photo of the beach, along with an image of a cellphone tower.
In large lettering the sign reads, "Eastlink… We said no."
The signs were put up on the weekend by a newly formed residents' association.
Member Gisele Leblanc and her partner bought five hectares of land just around the corner from Lawrencetown Beach last year. She said they planned to build on the property and live there with their five children.
Then, they found out Eastlink wants to put a 76-metre high tower next door.
"We want our kids to have a place outside of the mall to hang out. Having a cellphone tower there, I don't know what that does. Some people say it doesn’t have any health effects, I don't think we really know," Leblanc said.
"I don't want my kids next to it."
Eastlink had previously hoped to put a tower on nearby Leslie Road, but residents scuttled the bid.
Leblanc said her neighbours have agreed to a lease with Eastlink, but Industry Canada still needs to give approval before a tower goes up.
"People come from all over the place just to see Lawrencetown Beach and you're going to stick a huge tower up on the top of the hill and destroy all of that? It just doesn't belong there," said Leblanc.
"I'm not against cell towers, I’m really not. There's a better place for it, though."
Eastlink pushes on
The telecommunications company has filed an intervention with Industry Canada to break an impasse.
Coun. David Hendsbee said council voted against the site on Crowell Road too, but in the end, it's not up to Halifax Regional Municipality.
He said if the municipality offered Eastlink an affordable lease price and located a cluster of smaller poles on municipal land, it might be an affordable alternative to one big cell tower.
"That would blend into the neighbourhood much better than the monstrosity of the tower," he said. "You might be able to make public art out of them… make something better of a bad thing."
He said it's not clear if the municipality will be able to introduce new information before Industry Canada makes a decision.
Approval process questioned
Doyle Safire, chairman of the Lawrencetown Beach Community Association, said Eastlink told him they need to fill a gap in their coverage.
"I've lived in the area for 20 years, I’ve had a cellphone for 20 years. One of the things you accept when you move to a rural area is there are certain areas. I have to go 20 minutes for my nearest Tim Hortons fix," he said.
Safire said he thinks the process by which towers are proposed and approved is broken.
"There are no parameters or protected areas or identified setbacks within the province," he said.
"As it stands now every time a company wants to put up a single tower, not a tower as part of a larger network they come piece by piece. The level of consultation is very minimal so a lot of people don't even know it's happening in their communities until it's up."
In a statement, Eastlink said it takes the community's concerns seriously.
"We have been working to find alternate solutions in this area. The current proposed site at Crowell Road in East Lawrencetown was a location that was originally presented to us by some community members at a public consultation meeting over a year ago as a reasonable alternative to the original proposed site on Leslie Road," a company spokesperson told CBC News in a statement.
Safire refutes those claims.