Whistler Blackcomb VP weighs in on cell tower debate 

Decision from council could come as early as March

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - WEighing in WB's vice president of planning, government relations and special projects, Doug Forseth, is warning a cell tower proponent to pay attention to community concerns about its plan.
  • file photo
  • WEighing in WB's vice president of planning, government relations and special projects, Doug Forseth, is warning a cell tower proponent to pay attention to community concerns about its plan.

Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) vice president of planning, government relations and special projects has weighed in on the great cell tower debate.

In a letter addressed to representatives of Scott Land and copied to government officials, WB's Doug Forseth outlined his concerns with the 35-metre tower, and how the proponents have gone about their application.

"The actions of SBA/Scott Land & Lease Ltd. appear to me to be very self-serving and have little to no regard for the concerns being expressed by over 1,000 citizens of the Whistler community," Forseth wrote.

"Your team seems to be totally missing the key messages from many of the people of Whistler about maintaining the visual authenticity of this special community and tourism powerhouse."

Forseth noted that other cellular companies such as Telus, Bell and Rogers have been able to do business in Whistler while respecting the concerns of the community.

"SBA/Scott and WIND, on the other hand, don't seem to care about how they are perceived," Forseth wrote.

"You are losing the public relations battle in Whistler and I suggest that your team re-group and re-think your strategies. If WIND has long term plans to expand their service in Whistler they might want to consider what that looks like without the support of Whistler Blackcomb and mountain installations."

The letter is just one of many written on the topic in recent months.

Following a meeting with MP John Weston last month, community members compiled their own concerns into a short and concise letter, which Weston forwarded to Industry Canada minister James Moore.

In the letter, the authors outlined lessons learned from the meeting with Weston and their plans moving forward — including the formation of the Whistler Cell Towers Action Group.

The public comment period regarding the cell tower proposal ended Jan. 26, giving SBA Communications 30 days to respond to the community's concerns.

Once the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has had a chance to consider SBA's response, the decision to issue a letter of concurrence or non-concurrence will come before council — likely in early March.

But the tower — to be built on provincial Crown land — could prove to be grounded before construction even begins.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, the proponent has a License of Occupation from the ministry that allows the Crown land to be used as a communications site.

However, a cell tower is not part of the currently approved management plan, and the license holder would have to make a request to the ministry to change the plan to include a cell tower.

"The ministry would not approve the amendment to the current management plan if the Municipality of Whistler refused to grant authorization under their bylaws, or if the proposal was a threat to public health and safety," a ministry spokesperson said.

Whether or not the RMOW has the power to "refuse to grant authorization" remains to be seen.

"The decision to amend the management plan for the additional area and new tower rests with the province as the landowner," an RMOW spokesperson said.

"We will seek to provide input into their decision-making process."

SBA did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Meanwhile, another cell tower is proposed for the Village of Pemberton.

A public information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cottonwood Community Centre in Pemberton.


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