Wireless trees idea spreading roots in Bracebridge
BRACEBRIDGE - A Bracebridge committee is wondering if a proposed communications tower slated to be built within the town can be disguised as a tree.
The idea was floated as councillors were discussing Bell Mobility’s plans to place a 148-foot antenna system near the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 118. Staff reports tabled before the development services committee gave councillors the option of selecting either a single “monopole” model or a three-legged model, both of which would be easily distinguishable from the surrounding tree line.
Assistant development services director Dana Rahkola said Bell Mobility has selected the site for a communications tower to fill a weak spot in its service area.
“Bell monitors all dropped calls, and there a significant number of dropped calls in the area near the interchange,” he said.
Coun. Steve Clement, however, asked whether a model resembling a tree could be used instead, similar to those approved by Muskoka Lakes Township council earlier this year.
“Can we not ask for something more esthetic than a single pole?” he asked.
His concerns were echoed by Coun. Barb McMurray, who said she is familiar with the tree design.
“All you look at is a tree, basically that’s all you can see, just a tree, so long as it’s covered with trees along the bottom part of it,” she said.
Rahkola said the idea for a tree tower had come up in conversations with a consultant from the company, but the company decided against using a tree tower model due to existing land uses in the area.
Even if disguised as a tree, Rahkola said the tower would still protrude above the surrounding tree line.
“A Bell Mobility consultant stated it was highly unlikely that Bell would approve that, one of the reasons being that the tower itself is 45 metres, that’s148 feet in height, and trees grow maybe 80 feet or so,” he said. “You’re still going to have something sticking out.”
Based on the two options originally tabled by town staff, Coun. Scott Young said he’d favour the monopole model, after Rahkola told the committee that three-legged models could potentially become cluttered with many other antenna systems hanging off of them. Young also questioned how well a tall, wireless tree tower would fit into the surrounding landscape.
“It is a treed area that they’re in there, so I don’t know how freakish it would look,” he said.
Coun. Gerry Tryon, however, pointed to tree towers already constructed in Port Carling and in the Skeleton Bay area. The Skeleton Bay tree tower in particular, he said, “probably stands” about 100 feet taller than other trees in the surrounding area.
“You’d think it got some real good fertilizer,” he said. “Even though it’s that much higher, it still blends in with the bush.”
Although Coun. Barb McMurray wanted to table an amendment to allow the committee to formally consider a tree tower, council agreed to CAO John Sisson’s recommendation that the issue be delayed until the next council meeting, in order for town staff to make further inquiries with Bell Mobility about tree towers.