Whistler's mayor has a slew of questions about a proposed cell tower set to be erected a stone's throw away from Whistler's busiest daycare.
To name a few:
• Do we want this 35-metre structure towering up close to Highway 99, close the village?
• Can't it go where other towers exist already?
• Why is it needed in the first place?
"I don't know the answers to any of these questions right now," said Nancy Wilhelm-Morden this week.
She intends to find out from proponent SBA Communications.
What she does know at this point is this: "I have significant concerns about this thing being in the location that's proposed."
The tower, at 11-metres, will be the highest structure in the area on the corner of Lorimer Road and Highway 99.
She's not alone in her concerns. Whistler Cay resident Stan Kranjc said the only way to stop this tower is for the community to speak up and ensure their collective voice is heard in Ottawa, at Industry Canada.
"The only shot that the daycare and the town, if it doesn't want it there, (has) is to say 'hell no' loudly and in triplicate and in unison so that Industry Canada maybe takes a bit more notice," said Kranjc.
With concerns and questions abounding, the mayor is not only one encouraging residents to attend the open house on Dec. 10, and to also outline any concerns in writing to Industry Canada.
"I would strongly recommend that anybody who wants to make comments on this, make their comments in writing," said Wilhelm-Morden.
It is Industry Canada after all that will issue the go-ahead to build, not the municipality.
"We don't have any jurisdiction," added the mayor. "All we can do is comment on it."
That's the part that really gets Kranjc going.
He has several concerns, including the unsightliness of the tower and the alleged potential health issues from the radiofrequency (RF) waves, relative to the daycare and the neighbours in the area.
But what grieves him the most is the process.
"I'm most appalled about bad government policy," he said. "It's absurd that the town doesn't have any say on where these things should go. That's what I'm most (upset) at."
And yet, Whistler has more say in the process than ever before, thanks to a council-approved Antenna System Siting Protocol introduced one year ago. At that time, Whistler had 31 cell towers, with more on the horizon. The policy sets out procedures and guidelines for the placement and design of antenna systems with the municipality.
That Whistler policy was born out of a chance Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) seminar that some council members happened to attend.
"It was a really good thing to put that policy in place," said the mayor.
It sets out, among other things, the requirement for a community open house.
Still, it has no real teeth, paving the way for the proponent to control the process.
"Government shouldn't work that way," said Kranjc.
He lives in the area but will not be able to see the tower from his house.
Although Industry Canada may be sure there are no adverse health effects, it's website states:
"Health Canada's Safety Code 6 has large safety margins built in to provide a significant level of protection for the general public and people working near RF sources."
Kranjc isn't so sure.
"There's no control experiment for humans," he said, adding that his kids are in high school.
"If I was a parent of one of the kids (at the daycare), I would express far more reservation than I do."
Officials with the Whistler Children's Centre (WCC) did not return Pique's phone calls and emails this week.
But the issue is on WCC parent Robyn Akehurst's radar, with one child at the daycare and another at Myrtle Philip Community School further down the road.
Though she cannot attend the Dec. 10 open house, she plans to write to Industry Canada after she hears the results of that meeting.
"I believe that we may need more cell coverage," she said. "However, I believe as a resort and as a community we need to find better-suited positioning for this cell tower than the location that has been presented to us at this point."
While she would still like to do more research on the potential health impacts, Akehurst added:
"If there's any concerns for children, then we should try as a community to put it in a safer place, further away from a school, further away from a daycare, and further away from where people reside."
The public open house is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 10 from 6-8 p.m. at the Myrtle Philip Community Centre.
Members of the public will have up to 14 days after the open house to submit comment. SBA must respond to all comments within 60 days.
Municipal staff will then review the results of the public consultations, discuss the results with the applicant and then prepare recommendations for council consideration.
No date has been set on when this will come before council.
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