Broadcasters challenge Colwood bylaw

  • Feb. 1, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Colwood’s electronic nuisance bylaw is being challenged in B.C. Supreme Court by broadcasters who own transmission towers on Triangle Mountain.

CTV Ltd. and Rogers Broadcasting Ltd., along with property owner Constance Gibson, filed a civil claim that calls the bylaw unconstitutional and reaching far beyond the authority of a municipality.

In its statement of claim filed Jan. 4, the trio alleges the bylaw has no force and was enacted to limit broadcast signals, which are federally regulated by Industry Canada.

“The Triangle Mountain Broadcasting Towers were constructed pursuant to all required statutory and regulatory permits and licenses,” the claim says. The plaintiffs are asking the bylaw be overturned and the City ordered to pay its court costs.

Colwood administrator Ross McPhee said city lawyers filed a response this week outlining the City’s position that it is acting within its rights to protect residents from undue nuisance.

The bylaw adopted February 2010 targets landowners, such as Gibson, who lease their property to broadcast companies, requiring that “no person shall permit telecommunications equipment on their property to be used, knowingly or unknowingly, in a manner that interferes with a person’s reasonable use, security and enjoyment of his/her land.”

Since the bylaw was adopted, Triangle Mountain residents have been keeping careful records of the nuisance they experience as a result of the FM transmitters — including static and radio signals coming through telephone lines and garage doors and other electronic devices malfunctioning.

In September Colwood council directed its lawyers to begin the process of enforcing the bylaw with a long-form procedure through the courts. But McPhee confirmed that the City had not yet taken these steps to enforce the bylaw.

“There was a warning letter sent to the landowner, that’s as far as it’s gone,” he said.

He expects further enforcement actions will have to wait until after a ruling on whether the bylaw may be enforced.

“We’ll be looking for council for direction on how we should proceed … during in-camera discussions at the next meeting,” McPhee said, noting that fighting the broadcasters has potential to be a costly endeavor.

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said the City has spent several years negotiating with broadcasters to find a compromise outside of court.

“We’ve offered to help them relocate the towers or find a reasonable (broadcasting range) for their signals to not disturb the people living up there,” Saunders said.

The City has $40,000 set aside from a developer to begin the court proceedings with the broadcasters.

“We’ve been backed into a corner, we’re going to have to fight this.”

Triangle mountain resident Sharon Noble hopes Colwood won’t cave to industry pressure.

“We have a neighbour making our homes an unpleasant place to be,” Noble said. “It’s no different from having somebody with a dog barking all hours of the day or running a marijuana grow-op. It’s impacting our lives, and the City needs to do what it can to stop the nuisance.”

Gibson’s property has two transmissions towers on it. The first was erected in 1964, then replaced in 2000, the same year the second tower went up.

Colwood subdivided the land on the mountain for residential development in the early 1990s.

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