Telecommunication Facilities

Background

Telecommunication towers are an integral part of the radiocommunication and telecommunications network within Canada and are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government. While the final decision of approval lies for these towers with the Federal Government, the Federal governing body (Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada) still requires that the proponents of telecom towers consult with the relevant Land Use Authority (Municipality) prior to a decision being made. Policy SU-26 of the Halifax Regional Municipal Planning Strategy requires the municipality to develop a strategy to deal with this type of infrastructure. On April 28, 2015 Halifax Regional Council directed staff to consult with industry stakeholders in the development of a telecommunication tower administrative order.

Applying for a Telecommunications Facility in HRM

The municipality is not the approving authority for telecom towers. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over the area of radiocommunication and telecommunications. Municipal and Provincial legislation, including zoning by-laws, do not and cannot regulate the location of telecom towers. As such, municipal processes serve the purpose of collecting feedback from the community, and providing a recommendation to the Federal regulating body of Industry Canada.

On March 22, 2016, Halifax Regional Council approved 2015-005-GOV, the Siting of a Telecommunication Antenna Administrative Order. In this process, telecommunication tower applications are no longer considered by Community Council, and instead are assessed against Council guidelines as well as considering feedback as provided by the public.

The steps involved in this process are as follows:

1. Pre-Consultation with staff:

  • Information is submitted to the municipality providing details regarding tower location, height, context, and why the tower is required.
  • Staff provide response indicating if a site is within a location that is “preferred” or not.

2. If Preferred Location Criteria is Met:

  • The focus of the process is to direct applicants to low impact locations where it is felt telecommunications towers would not have a significant impact on adjacent lands, uses, or residents.
  • When the Preferred Location Criteria is met, no further consultation would be required, and the applicant could proceed directly to submission of a full application package of a proposal which complied with siting and design guidelines of the protocol.

3. If Preferred Location Criteria is Not Met:

  • Applicants are notified they do not meet the preferred location criteria, and are then responsible for fulfilling the requirements of a consultation program outlined in the Administrative Order. This program includes mail notification to nearby land owners, signage on the site, newspaper advertisements, creation of a website, and the holding of a public information session.
  • Consultation is wholly the responsibility of the applicant and must adhere to all specific standards referenced in the Administrative Order.

4. Full Application Submission:

  • Following public consultation, it would be expected that amendments to the proposal would be made to address concerns expressed by residents through consultation or by staff at the pre-consultation stage.
  • Following amendments, or if no consultation was required, the applicant then submits a full application to municipal staff for review. The contents of this submission includes:
    • A summary of consultation completed;
    • A copy of all notification materials provided to the public;
    • Written comments received from the public;
    • A written submission responding to all reasonable and relevant concerns identified by the public, or by staff at the pre-consultation stage of application; and
    • A resubmission of updated materials initially required at the pre-consultation stage.

5. Review of the Submission:

  • Staff reviews the full application submission and responds in writing within 21 days.
  • Responses indicate one of three possibilities.
  • That concurrence (agreement) has been reached:
    • That concerns held by the community or staff still remain and this information will be provided to Industry Canada.
    • That the submission materials are incomplete and do not comply with the Administrative Order.
  • Letters of concurrence expire three years from its date of issue at which time the process would need to be re-started in order to receive a further letter of concurrence

Helpful Links
• Telecommunications Application Form 

•  Administrative Order 2015-005-GOV Inclusive of ‘Preferred Site Criteria’

•  Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development - Tower Facts

•  Government of Canada Regulations for Telecommunications Towers (CPC-2-0-03)

For More Information, Please Contact:
HRM Planning Applications
5251 Duke St, 3rd Floor, Duke Tower, Halifax
902.490.4472

Common Questions:

"Telecommunication facilities" refers to all antennae and antenna systems including masts, towers, and other supporting structures required for radio communication and broadcasting services.

Who regulates and approves telecommunications facilities?

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (Government of Canada), is the licensing body and regulates these facilities under the provisions of the Federal Telecommunications Act (S.C. 1993, c.38). Communication companies must apply to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for a licence to operate an installation at each specific location.

What role does HRM play in the location of telecommunications facilities?

The federal government has recognized that municipal authorities may have an interest in the location of telecommunication facilities, and every   municipality is given an opportunity to review the proposed facility and provide comment. These comments will be considered by Industry Canada, who will then determine whether or not a license is to be granted and will stipulate any conditions.

 In HRM, where:

  • the proposed installation of telecommunications equipment is not contemplated by the land use zone applied to the property, or
  • where the proposal is not considered to be excluded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Client Procedures

Proponents are required to submit a Telecommunications Application to HRM Planning Services. Each proposal is reviewed for information regarding the type, size, and location of the installation. In the case of towers,  co-location (or co-utilization) information is also reviewed. Co-location means the use of a communications tower, either existing or proposed, by two or more carriers.

Through the telecommunications application process, the municipality will facilitate a public consultation component, review the proposal and provide comment on the proposal to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.


What Municipal policies address proposed telecommunication installations?

On March 22, 2016, Halifax Regional Council approved 2015-005-GOV, the Siting of a Telecommunication Antenna Administrative Order. In this process, telecommunication tower applications are no longer considered by Community Council, and instead are assessed against Council guidelines as well as considering feedback as provided by the public.

Do other Canadian Municipalities have specific policies to address proposed communications installations?

Certain municipalities in Canada have adopted specific policy and protocols related to the installation of telecommunications equipment. Examples include:
• Toronto, Ontario
• Calgary, Alberta
• The City of Winnipeg
 

Are licensees required to comply with zoning by-laws?

No. Radio communication is a field exclusively legislated by the federal government. Matters that affect federally authorized radio stations are clearly governed by the Radio communication Act.

Provincial and local requirements, such as municipal zoning by-laws, relate only incidentally to radio communication and are outside the purview of federal law. However, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada requires applicants to work with local land-use authorities and to accommodate reasonable local requirements as outlined in Client Procedures Circular. Circumstances where local requirements are deemed to be too stringent or an agreement cannot be reached with local authorities, the applicant can petition Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for a decision in accordance with CPC-2-0-03.

How will I know if a new telecommunications facility is being proposed for installation in my neighbourhood, and how can I share my views?

Depending upon the location where a Telecommunications Application is proposed, public consultation may be required. Citizens who have questions or comments about proposed telecommunications facilities can make their opinion known through the consultation process. More information on the ways in which planning staff determine if public consultation is needed for a tower is described in the staff report. 

Why does the telecommunications facility have to be in my neighbourhood?

The location of telecommunications facilities is important in providing the quality of service that the public expects. Radio waves are limited in how far they can travel while still being reliable.  As demand for wireless services increases, more towers are required, and they are often closer to users.

Can existing telecommunication facilities, or other antenna-supporting structures, be used?

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada requires  proponents to use existing structures wherever possible and practical. In some instances, because of technical or other constraints, sharing a structure is not always feasible.

Can I appeal the proposed installation of the telecommunications facility?

No. As telecommunication facilities are Federally regulated and licensed, there is no appeal procedure.
                      
Does a proposed telecommunications facility require an amendment to the Land-Use By-law?

No. Telecommunications installations are Federally regulated and licensed; therefore, a land use by-law amendment is not required to allow the location of a communication installation on any site within the municipality.

Does a proposed telecommunications facility site require posting of a Public Notice?

Not always. However, where a proponent is required to undertake the Telecommunications Application process described in Council's approved Administrative Order, the applicant is required to place a Public Notice sign on the subject property.

What is required for the public notification process?

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has outlined the required public notification process related to the siting of antenna systems in their Client Procedures Circular (CPC-2-0-03 Volume 4). In cases where the municipality requires a proponent to submit a Telecommunications Application, the applicant will facilitate the public notification.

Where public consultation is required as per the Council approved Administrative Order, the applicant for the tower is responsible for fulfilling the requirements of a consultation program outlined in the Administrative Order. This program includes mail notification to nearby land owners, signage on the site, newspaper advertisements, creation of a website, and the holding of a public information session. Consultation is wholly the responsibility of the applicant and must adhere to all specific standards referenced in the Administrative Order.                         

Why are some telecommunication facilities (i.e. towers)  painted and fitted with lights?

Paint and lights ensure the telecommunications facility is visible to aircraft. Proponents must ensure their proposals for any antenna system are first reviewed by Transport Canada. Transport Canada will advise the proponent of any potential hazard to air navigation and the standards relating to painting and lighting for the antenna tower.

Are there any safety guidelines to protect the public's health?

Health Canada has safety guidelines for exposure to radio frequency fields in its Safety Code 6 publication entitled "Limits of Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields in the Frequency Range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz."  While the responsibility for developing Safety Code 6 rests with Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has adopted this guideline for the purpose of protecting the general public.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada requires all radio communication and broadcasting operators to comply with Safety Code 6 at all times, including the consideration of combined effects of nearby installations within the local radio environment. Operators must also respect updates made to Safety Code 6.

Are environmental concerns taken into consideration?

Yes. Installation and modification of antenna systems must comply with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The municipality has adopted provisions related to development in proximity to environmental features such as wetlands and watercourses. A telecommunications proposal must demonstrate compliance with these provisions, where applicable.

How is the general public protected from overexposure to radio frequency fields?

To protect the general public, Health Canada has developed a safety  guideline entitled "Limits of Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields in the Frequency Range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz,"  commonly referred as Safety Code 6. This document has been adopted by many organizations across Canada and referred to in a number of regulations. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has adopted Safety Code 6 for the protection of the general public.
                         
If exposures do not exceed the limits specified in Safety Code  6, then there is no convincing scientific evidence that any adverse health effects will occur.

Are there any requirements or standards governing the amount of exposure to radio frequency radiation or electro-magnetic fields from communication towers?

Health and safety issues are regulated by Health Canada. Specific information about Health Canada's Safety Code 6 can be found on the Health Canada website or by writing to:
Consumer & Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau
Health Canada
775 Brookfield Road, PL6302C
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1C1

How does Industry Canada ensure that radio communication and broadcasting installations respect Health Canada's limits for the protection of the public from radio frequency fields?

While the responsibility for developing Safety Code 6 rests with Health Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has adopted the same guideline for the purpose of protecting the general public. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada requires all proponents and operators ensure their radio communication and broadcasting installations comply with Safety Code 6 at all times. Proponents and operators must also consider the combined effects of nearby installations within the local radio environment. For more information, consult CPC-2-0-03. Furthermore, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada conducts its own assessments and audits as required.

Who can I contact at the municipality if I have more questions about telecommunication facilities?

Halifax Regional Municipality Planning Applications 
PO Box 1749
Halifax NS
B3J 3A5

Phone: 902.490.4472
Fax: 902.490.3976