Saturday, December 3, 2011

Your church steeple may actually be a cell phone tower in disguise

It seems appropriate to me that cell phone towers may be disguised as church steeples, since they're being placed at community service and entertainment centres disguised as churches. As reported by Kevin Maimann in the Edmonton Examiner, November 16, 2011:

Some west-end residents are fuming over Telus's latest cellphone tower proposal on the property of Gospel Centre Pentecostal Church at 9445 153 St.

Tamisan Bencz, who lives near the proposed tower, is concerned about property values, and about radio waves being emitted near family homes and Sherwood elementary school.

The Sherwood West Jasper Place area is already teeming with cellphone towers, including a Rogers tower four blocks away.

"Pretty soon we're going to have towers every few feet. And what I don't understand, is some places I drive I don't see a tower anywhere. And yet, they're surrounding us," Bencz says, speaking from her cellphone at home.

"There are towers everywhere. And there is no issue with reception whatsoever."

Bencz has been frustrated by attempts to discuss her concerns with Telus after the company sent a letter to area residents and held an open house last month.

Residents are also upset with the church after it signed a contract with Telus to accept payment for the use of its property – something Bencz did not find out about until the Oct. 27 open house.

"When you're a neighbour, you're supposed to be a part of the community. Well, they kind of made a decision that affects everybody else, on their own," Bencz says. "The church didn't do their due diligence."

Church Pastor Murray Coughlan declined an interview but e-mailed a statement saying the church is "in communication with our neighbours and Telus."

Residents of the south-side Greenfield community are fighting a similar battle over a Telus tower proposed on Greenfield Baptist Church land at 3712 114 St.


The director of community engagement for Telus says church properties are increasingly common locations for cellphone towers because the towers can be disguised as steeples.

"The typical design is either a lattice-type tower, or a monopole, which is a large pole. And those aren't nearly as attractive as the ones that we're able to disguise as church steeples," says Jim Johannsson. "Churches actually make really good locations, because they are well situated and it does allow us to visually blend the antenna into the community"...

..."A lot of people assume that because we have signed an agreement with the church, that it's a done deal and the tower will go ahead. And that's not true at all," he says. "There are so many steps that have to be followed."
May 15, 2012 update: This item from Saskatoon, as reported by Fan-Yee Suen of CKOM radio, April 10, 2012:

A 30-meter cross may soon adorn the top of a proposed cell tower in a church parking lot in the Preston Avenue South and Adelaide Street East area.

The project was pitched by Rogers Communications about a year ago after the company expressed an interest to lease 100-square-feet of land, a board member of the Preston Avenue Community Church said.

“That was one of their ideas because apparently they’ve done it in other places,” Mervin Hartman said of the cross which will loom approximately 80-feet above the air.

“We felt it was a good idea because the cross is important to us and indicates Christ’s death and resurrection,” Hartman said.

If the project is approved by the city, funds from the lease contract – an undisclosed sum Hartman said was “inappropriate” to share at this time – will be used for charity.

He said the deal to lease the land was not contingent upon the cross being erected however the religious symbol did make it a “little bit more appetizing” for the church.

Over the past decade, health concerns surrounding cell phone towers have sprouted up as the number of Canadians who rely on wireless telecommunication continues to increase.

However, according to the Health Canada website, the consensus in the scientific community is that the radiofrequency energy emitted from cell towers is “too low to cause adverse health effects in humans.”

“When building or upgrading infrastructure we meet or exceed Health Canada standards, Industry Canada regulations, and the processes and protocol of the local municipality,” an e-mail from a Rogers Communications spokesperson read.

“Sites are chosen based on numerous factors including the proximity to the area requiring service. The surrounding community and local municipality are often notified and consulted with prior to a site being finalized.”

On May 10, 2012, a public consultation meeting will be held to discuss the project.

Ward Councillor Charlie Clark could not be reached to comment on the project at the time of publication.
January 18, 2013 update: Gospel Centre Pentecostal isn't the only church in Edmonton to face opposition over a cellphone tower. As reported by Cailynn Klingbeil of the Edmonton Journal, January 13, 2013:

EDMONTON - About a dozen people who protested Sunday outside a south Edmonton church said they will return every week until their concerns about a cellphone tower proposed for the property are heard.

“We’re just getting started,” said protest organizer Marcey Kliparchuk, standing outside Dayspring Presbyterian Church, 11445 40th Ave.

The Greenfield resident’s main worry is that radiation given off by the 30-metre tower Rogers wants to build on the site could be a health risk, particularly for her two children, aged two and 10.

Rogers has said the company needs the tower to improve wireless service in the area and the application will comply with all the requirements of Industry Canada and Health Canada, which states on its website that there is no scientific reason to consider cellphone towers dangerous as long as exposure is within its guidelines.

“We’ll be here every Sunday until they change their mind,” said Kliparchuk. She said in addition to organizing the peaceful protests, she will continue knocking on doors in the neighbourhood and delivering flyers to residents informing them about the proposed tower and its risks.

“I don’t want this in my front yard,” said protester Cheryl Gerdes, holding a sign that read “Protect your children ... Stop cell towers where children live and play.”

The signs came from Citizens for Safe Technology, a national coalition concerned about exposure to unsafe levels of radiation from technology.

The protesters waved at parishioners entering the church’s parking lot before Sunday’s service.

Kliparchuk said she has tried to meet with leaders of Dayspring to discuss her concerns and alternatives to a cell tower for raising money, but they have refused.

Dayspring elder and spokesman John Carr said the church has done its research and science does not indicate there are health issues with cell towers.

“They’re entitled to their beliefs and they’re entitled to protest peacefully.”

He said it’s not the church’s job to consult with the community.

“We’ve consulted with the congregation,” he said, estimating more than half of their members live in the community.

Carr said any money made from the tower will go back into the community, through making the building more accessible to residents and such social services as a food bank.

While Dayspring signed a contract with Rogers in 2011, Carr said a timeline for the tower’s construction is not yet known.

Final approval must come from Industry Canada.

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