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Antenna health concerns worry residents
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 17 mars 2011

Photo: Marie Cicchini

Satellite dishes and telecommunications antennas are proliferating in the city’s landscape.

Residents in various boroughs have raised concerns about the possible adverse health effects of telecommunications antenna waves. The antennas are also unsightly, and a recent proliferation of them has prompted complaints.

An ad hoc committee report on telecommunications antennas tabled at Montreal city council Feb. 21 seeks to regulate the proliferation of telecommunication antennas.

The group, comprised of councillors from each of the three parties, as well as urban planners, computer experts, and lawyers, made two key recommendations: that the city ensure minimum standards in all boroughs with respect to the location and appearance of telecommunications antennas; and that specific criteria be established to determine which factors would affect their regulation.

Public views on aesthetic harmony in urban planning, as well as pragmatic factors such as necessary location, could be taken into consideration.

Chairman Alain Tassé said that any regulation in this area is a delicate matter because it involves competing jurisdictions. Federal legislation passed in 2009 prohibits the banning of telecommunications antennas. Nevertheless, the law leaves some leeway for municipalities to regulate.

But committee member Alex Norris cautioned against over-zealous regulation. “The courts could declare any regulation inoperative,” he said.

In spite of these reservations, Montreal city council has already adopted a unanimous resolution requiring that the design and distribution of antennas conform to the urban plan.

Tassé said that if the city accepts the committee’s recommendations, the next step is to set up a working group of civil servants to draft the wording of a resolution that will ultimately be voted on by city council, after public consultation.

He hopes that the administration will accept the committee’s recommendations. “Comprehensive regulation is needed to compel companies to conform to the urban plan,” he said.

Companies have been acting unilaterally and installing antennas without a permit on all kinds of buildings, including churches and those that house swimming pools. Regulation could force promoters to come to the boroughs to ask for a permit.

[ Deborah Rankin ]

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