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Citizens' Group Responds to Proposed Dufferin Heights Tower

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larger_dufferin.jpg--November 25, 2010

Several residents of Dufferin Heights have joined forces to create an informal association known as Les Amis de Dufferin Heights.

According to Dufferin Heights resident (and association member) Stephen Prest, the group has been formed in response to recent moves by the MRC Coaticook and the Municipality of Stanstead Est to erect a new telecommunication tower on Dufferin Heights.

Prest told the Record last week that the association wants to make sure that "whatever takes place on Dufferin Heights fits in with the agricultural heritage and character" of the neighbourhood.

In a recent press release, Les Amis de Dufferin Heights stated that its purpose is to provide "a forum for people interested in preserving the sense of place of Dufferin Heights" and to "to ensure members of the general public are informed of any plans for development projects which might be considered out of character with the historical agricultural, recreational and natural heritage of Dufferin Heights."

The communiqué went on to say that in recent months various land owners had been approached by officials from both the municipality and the MRC "who are requesting that a 30 metre telecommunications tower be erected on their lands as part of a regional wireless internet network."

Accompanying the press release was an illustrated brochure outlining some of the main historic facts pertaining to Dufferin Heights. Highlights include background on the Morrill farm (established in 1809), the Vivian farm (also dating to the early 1800s), Dufferin Heights Golf Course (founded in 1922), and the Pioneer and Veterans' monuments (both erected in the 1920s).

The brochure focuses on the agricultural character and historic importance of surviving farm buildings, and on the area's scenic importance. The panoramas from Dufferin Heights, which is located on the Chemin des Cantons tourist route, are (the brochure states) "enjoyed every year by thousands of Quebecers and other tourists."

larger_tower.dufferin.jpgMany of these visitors, of course, come to the golf course and to the nearby Pioneer and Veterans' monuments, restored just four years ago, to see the view of the surrounding countryside. That view extends in every direction as far as the eye can see, and is considered one of the most splendid in the Townships.

The brochure mentions a major communications tower that was installed, not far from Dufferin Heights, just seven years ago. Back then, it states, "the principal property owners... all declined to allow use of their lands for such purposes. Other residents of Stanstead Est voiced their opinions as to the impact siting a major communications tower would have on the 'Sense of Place' and heritage of the Dufferin Heights region. In the end a committee of concerned citizens, municipal and regional representatives agreed [on] a compromise solution to locate the tower on the southwest slopes of Dufferin Heights... The Telus Tower stands 90 metres in height and it is generally considered to have sufficient carrying capacity for all regional telecommunications requirements well into the future."

Two weeks ago, the Record spoke to Stanstead Est Mayor Guy Lefebvre about the proposals for a new tower on the Heights. At that time, Mayor Lefebvre told us that the MRC Coaticook (which did not return our phone calls) was considering an alternate location for the new tower than that originally proposed. The new location, Lefebvre said, would probably be on Vivian Road, not on the Heights near the Pioneer and Veterans' monuments where it was originally planned.

Lefebvre said that because of objections to the choice of location near the monuments, among others from the Stanstead Legion and the Stanstead Historical Society, both of which raised money to restore the monuments in 2006, a lower down, less obtrusive location was being considered.

Lefebvre noted, however, that the tower would have to be fairly close to Route 143, so that it could connect to the fibre-optic cables already in place there. He said that he did not think that a public consultation meeting would be necessary.
Since that time, we have learned that this new group, Les Amis de Dufferin Heights, would prefer to see no new telecommunications tower at all anywhere on Dufferin Heights, even in a lower, less obtrusive spot.

Contacted again by the Record, Mayor Lefebvre said that since speaking to this newspaper last, he had met some of those concerned residents at the last meeting of his town council. His impression, he said, was that while everybody always wants high speed Internet they never want the necessary infrastructures "in their back yard."

Asked if the municipality could connect to the existing Telus tower, the mayor said that the MRC would be looking into it the possibility. He added, however, that according to the information he had, the costs of connecting to that tower would be far too high to make high speed affordable to local residents. In fact, it would be "unthinkable," he said. "The other location [on Vivian Road], would be much more affordable," he added.

As it now stands, according to Lefebvre, the file is in the hands of the MRC.