Protection for Comfortably Numb 

Recommends wireless providers build tower somewhere else

By Alison Taylor

To avoid impacting with one of Whistler’s most iconic mountain bike trails, a municipal committee has asked Rogers Wireless to relocate a new cell tower in the north end of town.

The Forest and Wildland advisory committee voted against the proposed plan that includes a road because it crossed a section of the Comfortably Numb trail.

Instead, the committee has asked that Rogers work with Telus to build a tower overlapping a portion of the Green Lake Loop bike trail.

“This is a better location in terms of conflict with trails,” said Chris Midgley, planning analyst with the municipality, adding that the location of the proposed road upgrade is on a degraded section of the Green Lake Loop Trail.

“The negative is that there’s a stronger visual prominence of this site. So part of the discussion was around weighing whether or not a bit more visual impact is better than seriously impacting a really great mountain bike trail.”

Both Telus and Rogers have submitted applications to the province for two separate tower locations in an attempt to provide better cell phone coverage to residents in Emerald Estates.

Jeff Follett, Rogers’ regional manager of new site development for western Canada, said quite often the companies will work together to build one tower instead of two.

They made two separate applications to provide some choice but Follett said the feedback appears to support the Green Lake Loop site over the Comfortably Numb site.

“That appears to be the feedback we’re getting,” he said.

FWAC supports the Green Lake Loop location but has set out four conditions they hope the wireless providers will meet.

They are:

• to provide visualizations that demonstrate the visual impact of development;

• to explore minor adjustments to the site location to minimize crossing into the mature forest ecosystems;

• to provide a commitment to co-locate with other wireless service providers, such as Rogers and Bell, and

• to provide a commitment for financial compensation to mitigate the loss of a community riding asset.

FWAC pegged the compensation at $15,000, though it estimates the true cost to compensate for the trail is closer to $25,000.

But, as Midgley recognizes, there are no ways to make the companies comply when they are developing on land outside the municipal boundary. The decision ultimately rests with the province, which takes Whistler’s concerns into account.

“We really don’t have an awful lot of real authority… to enforce (policy outside the municipality),” admitted Midgley. “We’re just asking for them (the companies) to co-operate.”

“We certainly are considering that,” said Follett of the financial contribution.

The discussions around the cell phone tower or towers reveal the importance of the relatively new Comfortably Numb trail, which is a provincially recognized mountain bike trail. Last fall Comfortably Numb was designated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as an “Epic Ride”, only the fifth trail in Canada to receive that designation.

Midgley said: “There’s a lot of municipal love for Comfortably Numb, whereas Green Lake Loop, has a lot of potential, but it’s not a really well used trail as I understand it.”

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