Telus surprised by RDN stance on cell tower for French Creek

In the end, says French Creek rep and board chair Joe Stanhope, the decision about the tower lies with Industry Canada

ny is looking at its options for increased cell phone coverage in the French Creek area after the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors flip-flopped on its support for a tower on Sunrise Drive.

Electoral area directors — basically the board minus Nanaimo reps — had recommended the RDN send a letter of concurrence to Industry Canada saying the RDN had no problem with Telus’ tower plans. A couple of weeks later, after pleas from local residents, the entire board decided to not only reject the concurrence suggestion, but ask Industry Canada to force Telus into a number of actions before granting approval for the tower.

“We’re surprised the regional district would go back on its position to support us in investing to build a new wireless tower in response to customer demand,” said Telus spokesperson Liz Sauve. “This makes it challenging for us to move forward.”

There have been calls for better cell coverage in the Sandpiper/Eaglecrest/Chartwell areas of French Creek and Qualicum Beach for years, from residents and local government officials. Earlier this year, Oceanside RCMP Staff Sgt. Brian Hunter told the RDN board he was pleased to hear about plans for a tower on Sunrise Drive.

“It’s difficult when you have a major police event and have to communicate through cell phones and they don’t work,” Hunter said. “It (construction of the tower) will enhance the safety of the community.”

Joe Stanhope is the French Creek rep at the RDN and the board chair.

“I don’t think it’s a case of reneging,” Stanhope said this week. “The consultation was not done properly.”

Sauve said Industry Canada asks that companies consult with anyone who lives within an area that’s three times the height of the proposed tower. In this case, that would mean consultation of residents who live within 52 meters of the proposed site. Sauve said Telus went beyond Industry Canada’s requirements, expanding the consultation area to 80 metres from the site.

In one of the motions passed last week, the RDN asked Industry Canada to hold off on its approval of the tower until Telus consults with everyone who lives within 500 metres of the tower.

“We’re going to take another look at the area, but this makes our capital planning for the area challenging,” said Sauve.

Telus has already spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on the project for the tower that will cost $400,000, said Sauve.

Last week, two area residents made a plea to the RDN’s board, asking them to reconsider sending the letter of concurrence.  Kelly Olson said the people in the direct vicinity of the tower do not want it there.

“Putting it (the cell tower) in the middle of a subdivision when (we) don’t know the effects is not wise,” she said.

According to Health Canada “Health concerns are sometimes expressed by people who live or work near cell phone tower… Yet, the consensus of the scientific community is that RF (radio frequency) energy from cell phone towers is too low to cause adverse health effects in humans.”

However, Olson said  “We can’t take the chance with our children.”

This week, Stanhope said the decision on where any tower will be located (in the RDN’s jurisdiction) is in the hands of Industry Canada and likely the federal Minister of Industry, James Moore.

— with files from Carli Berry, Candace Wu

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