Ignacio “Nacho” Aguero says he has worries about safety if Rogers Communications goes ahead with plans to build a 140-foot cell tower near Maryfield, right next to his runway.
Aguero is a crop sprayer who divides his time between southeastern Saskatchewan and Argentina. He sprays crops in Saskatchewan in the summer, and in Argentina during the southern hemisphere’s growing season—our winter.
He has built a hangar and runway just north of Maryfield. SaskTel has a cell tower on a neighboring quarter, making the quarter a no-fly zone, and now Rogers plans to build a cell tower on another adjacent quarter, which Aguero says will make takeoffs and landings difficult on his airstrip.
While there are restrictions on cell towers near public airports through federal Airport Zoning Regulations, there are no federal regulations to prevent cell towers from being built next to a private airstrip like Aguero’s.
According to Aguero, cell towers are a permitted use of agricultural zoned land under the RM of Maryfield’s zoning bylaw, so no zoning amendment or hearing is necessary before one is built.
Aguero says he has tried to speak with Rogers to convince them to build the tower elsewhere, but wasn’t successful.
“I tried to talk to the person who decides where they go,” he said. “They told me they wouldn’t come into conflict with me, but I’m worried about the safety aspect. To me it’s unacceptable to have a cell tower so close to an aerodrome. There’s a SaskTel tower on the next quarter, and cell phone companies are encouraged to share infrastructure, but SaskTel obviously doesn’t want to share their tower with Rogers.”
Aguero said he never would have developed his airfield where he did if he had any idea there might be a cell tower built next to it.
“That quarter was the only place we could find,” he says. “Farmers around here aren’t in the business of selling land.
“We bought the quarter and built the runway diagonally. Because of the existing cell tower, that entire quarter is a no fly zone. The next one is going to the north, right beside where my building is, and that will make that a no fly zone, too.”
His new airstrip isn’t recognized yet by Transport Canada.
“We’re in the process of getting it approved as a private aerodrome,” Aguero says.
“If it was an international airport, that has already been protected. The approach paths of airports are protected—you can’t put anything there.”
He said he has put a lot of money into his airstrip and hangar, and wonders about the impact of a second neighboring cell tower.
“We just finished a huge investment, we tried to buy everything locally, and after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars I’m going to be forced to move,” says Aguero
“If I knew they were going to put a tower there I would never have bought that section of land.
“I would worry a lot about the safety. If it’s there, its a matter of time, you’re going to hit it one day. I fly under power lines, so I can fly under the guywires of this thing if I want to—but the presence of the obstacle is something that increases the risk. Another obstacle just increases the risk.
“If they build it, I will put my land up for sale. As a business—as a crop spraying business—I can’t live with that there.”
Aguero says he heard from a neighbor that the cell tower might be going up.
“At the end of the spraying season, I was told ‘the lady from Rogers was here and they chose a site right by your hangar.’ ”
Aguero says he offered to pay the owner of the quarter where the Rogers tower is planned to not
“I offered to pay him as much as Rogers would pay him not to have it there,” says Aguero.
Next to his airstrip, Aguero has built an 80x100 hangar, and was planning to build living quarters inside the hangar.
“I have big plans, I want to expand in the future,” Aguero says.
“I’m trying to be part of the community and trying to build my business.”
Rogers has issued a public notice of its intention to build the cell tower, and is asking for public input by Dec. 4.
The public notice appears inside this week’s World-Spectator