WESTVILLE, N.S. – It took five minutes for cheers to turn to jeers at a Westville council meeting.
With more than 35 residents on hand Monday night to voice displeasure about the proposed cell tower that was to be built in the Cowan Street area, Westville mayor Roger MacKay announced it was a no-go.
“We’ve been allowed to withdraw the lease agreement with Eastlink at the Cowan Street site,” he declared at the Sept. 24 meeting, resulting in applause form the gallery.
But after a short recess, where council went into a hallway outside council chambers, councillors returned to declare that Eastlink now wants to erect a cell tower near the entrance to Acadia Park, adjacent to a splash park that has proven to be very popular with families, as well as a day care facility.
“I don’t think these people and the other residents of the town are going to stand for that." Mary K. MacKinnon
Motioning to the audience, Mary K. MacKinnon told council that “I don’t think these people and the other residents of the town are going to stand for that”.
The plot of land sits directly behind Reim’s Windows and Doors, and is owned by Quebec-based Econo-Malls, which has strong ties to Empire Company, Ltd.
“To put in near Acadia Park – if we allow that to happen, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Westville resident Doug MacNeil. “I would urge council to take the lead on this.”
But Westville council said that because cell phone towers are controlled federally, there’s little the town can do about it.
“We are as a council are not too happy, but it’s beyond our control,” said Coun. Lennie White.
Eastlink communications spokeswoman Jill Laing said earlier this month that the company seeks to find tower site locations “that provide excellent coverage while minimizing impacts to the communities we serve."
She added Eastlink is proposing a cellular site in the Town of Westville and it is working closely with the town through the process to ensure it captures feedback from the community on this proposed location, before any final decisions are made.
According to former Pictou East MLA and Westville resident Clarrie MacKinnon, residents are concerned about several issues regarding placement of the tower, including subsidence in the town, health concerns and a decrease in property values.
“A lot of people with children don’t want them exposed to electro-magnetic waves every day of the year,” he said following the Sept. 4 meeting. “If a person decides to sell their property, it could have a negative impact on values.”
After Monday’s council meeting, he was even more resolved.
“Eastlink is in for a major battle,” he said. “We will take this on with even more vigor.”