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Delta's Response to the Appeal to Whatcom County's Radio Towers Decision

Dec 17, 2014

Please see Chief Administrative Officer George V. Harvie's letter to Whatcom County Council in response to BBC Broadcasting Inc.'s appeal of the decision made by the Whatcom Country Hearing Examiner to deny the condition use permit for the broadcasting towers:

December 16, 2014

Marina Engels, Deputy Clerk of the Council
Whatcom County Council
311 Grand Avenue, Suite 105
Bellingham, WA 98225-4038

Dear Ms. Engels,

Re: Hearing Examiner File No. CUP 2013-0004, APL 2014-0011/SEP 2013-0032 and Council File No. AB 2014-343 (BBC Broadcasting Inc.)

I write in response to your letter of November 18, 2014 and the letter of December 3, 2014 from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP with respect to the above-referenced appeal. As the Chief Administrative Officer for the Corporation of Delta, I represent the interests of the Delta community, in particular, the residents of Tsawwassen, a suburban community located immediately north of Point Roberts, on the US-Canada border, and in close proximity to the location of the proposed radio towers.

Delta supports the October 20, 2014 decision of the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner to deny the conditional use permit for the radio communication facility in Point Roberts on the basis that the proposed project cannot meet certain height restrictions in the Whatcom County zoning ordinance. In addition, Delta has several other issues and concerns regarding the proposal which I would like to take this opportunity to highlight:

Point Roberts
Point Roberts is a unique community - a peninsula of only 13 square kilometres (5 square miles) that is geographically isolated from the US mainland. The nearest border crossing to Washington State is more than 50 kilometers away. Point Roberts has a full-time residential population of about 1,300, compared with Tsawwassen which has a population of more than 21,000.

As a result of their proximity, strong community ties have developed between Point Roberts and Tsawwassen, as evidenced by the high volume of daily cross-border traffic – between 5,000 and 6,000 vehicles cross the border every day. In 2012, more than 1.5 million people used the Point Roberts border crossing.

There are also regional and local government linkages that have developed over the years in the provision of services between the two communities. Some services are provided through formal agreements; for example, the Greater Vancouver Water District Board supplies water (700,000 gallons or 3,000 cubic metres per day) to Point Roberts through a long-term agreement that expires in 2037.

In terms of Fire and Emergency Services, there is a Mutual Aid Agreement in place between the Corporation of Delta and Whatcom County Fire District for the provision of police and emergency services on an ‘as needed’ basis.

Other services are provided without any formal agreement; for example, the border crossing between Point Roberts and Tsawwassen is along 56th Street, which is a municipal road. In the last 10 years, Delta has invested approximately $2.2 million in capital infrastructure projects on 56th Street that benefit residents of both communities. In addition, maintenance costs along 56th Street, between Highway 17 and the border amount to approximately $20,000 annually.

The Corporation of Delta also collects a significant amount of storm-water runoff from an area of approximately 250 hectares in Point Roberts which is managed through Delta’s pump station at Boundary Bay.

Point Roberts residents are also regular users of the library, recreation facilities and community facilities in Tsawwassen. Conversely, many Delta residents take advantage of cross border shopping, recreation and leisure opportunities in Point Roberts. Point Roberts, therefore, benefits from the geographical proximity of Tsawwassen and the provision of municipal services by the Corporation of Delta, and the people, businesses and service providers of both communities are very much interconnected.

Community Impacts
The proposal is to erect five 150ft tall towers surrounded by security fencing and warning signs, within 1100 feet of the International boundary between Pt Roberts, Washington and Tsawwassen, B.C. There is nothing in this proposal that benefits either community – no jobs, no economic investment and no potential for future economic development; yet there are some potentially very serious detrimental impacts. The community will be encumbered with a high power broadcasting facility which has the very real potential to cause blanketing interference problems.
In addition, the general public often associates broadcast towers with health effects and other negative impacts which can impact property values. The cumulative effect of all this is a high price for our communities to pay.

Although the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services staff report acknowledges Tsawwassen’s existence it does little in the way of allaying the communities concerns. In fact the report acknowledges that Tsawwassen is a sprawling suburban centre with a population of over 21,000 people that consists of high density housing developments and commercial strip malls. Yet at the same time the proponent has stated they are moving as “the site in Ferndale is rapidly being surrounded by multiple unit housing which causes two problems. It alters our radiation pattern and it puts a lot more people close enough to our towers to cause interference to their consumer electronics equipment…” Moving KRPI problems from Ferndale to Tsawwassen is not an acceptable solution.  

Blanketing Interference and International Jurisdiction
The proponent also acknowledges that “no one knows if there will be interference issues at the Point Roberts site until KRPI begins to broadcast from the facility.” If KRPI cannot guarantee no interference issues, how possibly can Whatcom County?  Whatcom County staff’s “assumption that most of the Ferndale RF interference issues were likely resolved” is also not acceptable.  

In October 2014, the Corporation of Delta retained a specialist consultant to conduct testing of a radio broadcast tower located in Delta to ensure compliance with Health Canada’s Safety Code 6. The consultant confirmed that the actual level of interference from the proposed Point Roberts towers would not be known until the towers were installed and operational.

Whatcom County Planning & Development Services had recommended conditional approval of the project subject to the proponent entering into a contractual agreement with Whatcom County that would have obligated the current and future owners of the facility to resolve all interference issues associated with the radio facility.

Although, the proponent is confident that any interference complaints in Tsawwassen and Point Roberts can and will be resolved. There is no real certainty of this. While Delta supports this requirement for the protection of the public’s interests in Point Roberts, we are concerned that this agreement will have no legal standing in Canada, and that Whatcom County would have no jurisdictional authority to enforce the provisions of the agreement in Delta.

Furthermore, BBC Broadcasting Inc. is a US-based company and, if there are blanketing interference complaints from Tsawwassen residents, the solution will not be as simple as sending a representative out to “provide a filter to the customer”, there would be cross-border immigration issues to resolve first.

In closing, I would reiterate that Delta supports the decision of the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner to deny the conditional use permit for the broadcasting towers, and would urge the Hearing Examiner to reject the appeal of this decision being made by BBC Broadcasting Inc.

Yours truly,

George V. Harvie

Chief Administrative Officer