Sorrento residents are upset over the proposal to install a Telus Mobility cell phone tower that will stand 60 metres high, just beyond their living room window.
Marilyn and Phil Clark, Sorrento residents, say they are not opposed to the tower itself, but the location.
The 0.24-hectare piece of land located at 1043 Dilworth Rd. is directly off the Clarks’ front lawn.
This has created a concern for the Clarks regarding what the view from their quiet home may be in a few months.
Shawn Hall, Telus spokesperson, says none of the proposed plans are concrete at this point, explaining that the company is still listening to concerns and considering suggestions.
The report that was presented to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board on March 23 states that the tower is expected to be 196.85 feet high and will include a small building to house equipment as well as a fence that will surround the area.
“The tower is being put in, in response to local demand,” says Hall, explaining that those using the highway are tired of losing cell reception.
Says Phil: “If it is highway users that are benefiting from it, then stick it by the highway where they have to look at it.”
Both Marilyn and Phil say they understand the need for the tower, and the benefits it will provide to the area.
What they disagree with is simply its placement.
Phil explains that the land is part of the Agriculture Land Reserve and is heavily used for this purpose. It also has very few trees to provide any sort of blind to minimize the visual impact and some of the trees that do stand in the area will be cut down in order to make room for a road that will run off Rabie Road.
Marilyn had suggested moving the tower to the other side of the street, an area that was suggested as an alternative location by Telus staff themselves in the report that was presented to the CSRD.
That site is located on the same parcel and, while it is still part of the ALR, it has not been used in more than 50 years, if ever, explains Marilyn.
The area, she says, is covered in trees which will help provide an extra blind at no extra cost to Telus and will minimize the visual impact for nearby neighbors.
Marilyn and Phil say they would not be opposed to the tower if it made the move to the other side of the street, moving it closer to the highway, and out of their line of view.
The Clarks wrote a letter to Telus to express their concerns and to suggest moving the tower to that location, or to a parcel of Crown land located nearby.
The letter was responded to on July 23 by Harvey Schmidke, manager, real estate at Alcatel-Lucent Canada (a contractor for Telus). In the email, Schmidke explains that when towers are being planned for an area, four main factors are considered: Does the location provide acceptable service and coverage? Is it constructible? Will it minimize impact? and What are the land-use issues?
Schmidke says moving the tower to Clarks’ suggested locations would be challenging for a number of reasons.
“In this specific case, the fact that the land is not currently being used for agriculture is immaterial,” states Schmidke in response to the unused land on the other side of the street.
However, the main alternative Telus had suggested to the proposed site is the same one which the Clarks are suggesting.
The board report presented to the CSRD states, “In spite of the negligible impact that this small site represents, significant other areas on the property exist that would be less of an impact on the overall agriculture use of the property, should this facility be considered to be located elsewhere.”
Phil says he wishes the CSRD had consulted with residents before approving the tower.
Residents had not been made aware of the plans for the towers until after they appeared before the regional district, when Telus themselves sent out an information package to all homeowners in the area and gave them a month to voice their concerns,
Hall, however, says Telus is still listening to concerns and no official plans have been made at this point.
“We are looking at options right now; if you would like to contribute further you can do so now,” says Hall. “We are reviewing all the feedback that has come in.”
Addressing the concern some locals have regarding the cellphone tower going up without a blind of any kind, Hall says he would be willing to work with the locals to create some sort of solution.
“We have done many things in the past including painting a tower brown to match the fire hall located next door.”
“We have had plenty of demand for this tower,” says Hall. “We are prepared to make a significant investment to meet these requests.”