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Telecommunications antennas
OCPM wraps up public hearings
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 3 novembre 2011

Photo: Marie Cicchini

A telecommunications tower on Mount Royal

Montreal’s office of public consultation, the OCPM, has just wrapped up a month-long series of public hearings on a draft bylaw regarding the display and distribution of telecommunications antennas. The hearings took place in a number of different boroughs, including Côte-des-Neiges/ NDG, where one was held at St. Kevin’s Church on Oct. 20. The idea behind spreading the consultation process across the city was to make it possible for the broadest cross-section of citizens to attend and participate.

The proposed bylaw would minimize the impact of unsightly antennas on nearby buildings and ensure that any supports and electrical conduits fit into the appearance of the buildings in which they are installed. By the same token, if they are installed on private or public equipment or any accessory structure, then they must fit into the overall style.

Individual citizens, telecommunications companies like Telus, and community stakeholders such as the CSSS, all had the opportunity to express their opinions by making an oral and/or written presentation. Community groups such as Heritage Montreal and Les amis de la montagne raised concerns about both the aesthetic integration of the relay antennas into the landscape, as well as public health and safety issues posed by indiscriminate installation.

Gabrielle Korn, a spokesperson for Les amis de la montagne, said that it is imperative to ensure that all studies be made public about possible health impacts. And antennas must be integrated into the landscape in a way that respects government mandated norms. The mountain is protected green space and so any future installations must conform to the statement of principles of the Mount Royal Enhancement and Protection Plan.

However, she also suggested that the city should be forward-looking in its approach. An example in point: existing antennas may have a grandfather clause, but if they are no longer in use, then they should be removed. These friends of the mountain would also like to see some financial compensation flowing back to the community whenever new antennas are installed in the public domain, that is in a park.

Transmission and receiving antennas have been on the group’s radar since its inception 25 years ago. The eco-friendly group has trained an eye on the Radio-Canada antenna on the summit, while keeping its focus on how developments on the mountain affect the site lines. Korn said that they would like to see the kind of artistic camouflage that has been done successfully in countries like Germany, France, and Spain tried here. She said that in Europe antennas have been integrated into street lamps and other features, some of them sculptural, with greenery added. But, she hastened to add, “I’m just happy to see the city actually implementing criteria for new ones, and removing existing ones in disuse.”

One of the issues that will have to be worked out involves competency sharing between the central city and the boroughs, once all opinions have been taken into account. Then Montreal City Council will vote to either accept or reject the revised bylaw.

[ Deborah Rankin ]

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