Deadline extended for public to comment on proposed Whistler cell tower 

Proposed SBA tower would be 35m in height

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS. - STANDING UP A resident raises his concerns for representatives of SBA Communications at an open house on Dec. 10.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis.
  • STANDING UP A resident raises his concerns for representatives of SBA Communications at an open house on Dec. 10.

The deadline has been extended for comment on a proposed cell tower set to go up near Whistler's busiest daycare.

People can now comment until Jan.26, 2015. Details about how community members can share their comments or concerns can be found at: https://www.whistler.ca/antennapolicy.

At an open house held Dec.10 by SBA Communications - the proponent of the tower - about 75 people showed up to voice their concerns.

And for more than two hours, SBA took the brunt of the community's backlash.

"We're here telling you that we don't want this tower where you want to put it," one man said, during the open house Q and A.

"Perhaps it's just convenient for you to put it there because all your hookups are there. However, I don't think you've convinced me or most of these people in this room that there are not any alternative locations."

The proposed tower would be located behind the Whistler Children's Centre at the entrance to Whistler Cay on Lorimer Road, and would be 35 metres in height.

To address concerns about the tower being an eyesore, SBA presented mock-ups of what they call a "mono-pine" cell tower - a concept designed to make the tower look like a tree by painting it brown and adding foliage.

Any mention of the mono pine design drew audible derision from the audience.

Some residents were concerned about wording in the information package sent out beforehand that says SBA would be able increase the height of the tower by 25 per cent without any prior consultation to accommodate other cell carriers.

"How are you going to hide it (then)? Are you going to put more metal leaves on it?" one resident asked.

Others had concerns about adverse effects due to radiation, seeing as the tower would be located next to a daycare and up the street from an elementary school.

According to SBA, there are no other locations that meet all the requirements for the tower.

"We looked at three locations for a new structure, and then we looked at co-location opportunities in the village," said Riley Brown, field sales project director for SBA Canada.

"Those don't serve the coverage requirements."

Brown said SBA must meet the right space, height and coverage requirements, as well as have a willing landowner.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has no say in the placement of the tower.

Following the public consultation process the RMOW can issue a letter of concurrence or non-concurrence with SBA.

But, Wilhelm-Morden said, the letter would have no legal impact on SBA's decision.

"We can't say to them, 'we don't like this, take what you've got down,'" she said.

"That doesn't happen. We do not have that capability.

"We identified this location as being very sensitive from a siting perspective two years ago, but here we are anyway."

The only opportunity to stop the tower from going up is to raise the issue with the federal government, she said.

Residents of the area were encouraged to submit comments to West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston at john.weston@parl.gc.ca or minister of industry James Moore at james.moore@parl.gc.ca.

Comments can be submitted by mail (Scott Telecom Services, attn: David Faulkenham, 900, 202 - 6th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alta., T2P 2R9), by fax (403) 263-5263 or email (notify@scottland.ca).

A petition opposing the tower has been set up at change.org, and has already garnered more than 700 signatures.

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