MP John Weston has officially joined the chorus of opposition to a cell tower proposed for a high-trafficked area of Whistler.
Weston voiced his opposition to the 35-metre antenna proposed for the corner of Highway 99 and Lorimer Road in a recent letter to Canadian industry minister James Moore.
"This was a proposal that didn't make sense economically, and the rally of agencies in Whistler that opposed it really speaks to that," said Weston.
Weston has now joined Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel Association of Whistler in opposing the tower.
Mayor and council also officially threw their hats in the ring last month with the issuance of a letter of non-concurrence to Industry Canada expressing their many concerns with the project. Chief among them? The potential visual impact and a lack of evidence that the antenna is even necessary to improve cellular service.
An online petition against the project has garnered widespread community support, with 1,100 signatures.
The petition was launched by the Whistler Cell Tower Action Group (WCTAG), a grassroots community group responsible for arranging a meeting on Friday, July 24, between Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Weston that ultimately led to his official letter to Ottawa.
"(Weston) felt that all (our) efforts were extremely transparent, well researched and that there was a lot of hard work by municipal staff, the cell tower action group and community members to show that the proposed location and scope (of the project) was not appropriate for what Whistler is about," said WCTAG member Suzanne Muscat.
Now the fate of the controversial project is in Moore's hands, and Whistler's mayor is confident he will side with the tower's critics.
"It would be extraordinarily disappointing if the minister exercised his discretion to approve this, and I don't anticipate that's what's going to happen, but the ball is now in his court," said Wilhelm-Morden.
Municipal staff has been working with the proponent over the past several months to identify other possible locations for the cell tower, all of which have been rejected by SBA Canada.
In January, B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources told Pique that the proponent has a License of Occupation from the ministry that allows Crown land to be used as a communications site.
However, a cell tower is not part of the approved management plan, and the applicant would have to make a request to the ministry to change the plan to include a cell tower. SBA Canada, which did not return a voicemail left at its Montreal offices, has yet to file the request.
Weston, who went through a similar situation in West Vancouver last year after a citizen group opposed a cell tower proposal that was ultimately rejected, commended the resort residents for how they've engaged in the democratic process.
"Here is an occasion where people spent a lot of their valuable time, they expressed their passions in an articulate and organized way and I believe that as a result, Whistlerites will be rewarded for that," he said.
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