British Properties neighbours set to fight Telus proposal


FEBRUARY 22, 2015   12:00 AM

Residents in a West Vancouver neighbourhood who voiced widespread opposition to a plan for Rogers cell phone towers in 2013 say they’re gearing up to fight another cell tower plan – this time from Telus.

Shawn Philley, who lives on Mathers Avenue just above Highway 1 in the British Properties, said he and his neighbours recently learned Telus has approached the West Vancouver Baptist Church across the street about the possibility of leasing property there for a tower.

“There’s been no communication with the neighbours at all,” he said. “We’re concerned about them putting something up in our neighbourhood without consultation.”

Philley said he has concerns about potential health impacts of a cell phone tower so close to his home.

“I know the jury is out on is it dangerous or is it not dangerous,” he said. He’s also worried about a potential effect on property values if large towers are constructed.

Shoku Pond, another neighbour who is also a church member, also has concerns about the proposal.

“I’m very much against it,” she said, when contacted by the News.

Pond said being a member of the church puts her in an awkward position, but she has made her views known to others in the congregation.Pond said her main concerns are also about possible health effects – one of the key neighbourhood concerns that torpedoed a plan by Rogers to put up cell phone towers along the highway near Taylor Way, 15th Street and 26th Street in 2013.

Health authorities have said that cellular towers don’t create health risks and point to Canada’s safety code as an appropriate level of protection.

But during the last public debate on the issue, many in West Vancouver said they are concerned that the potential health impacts of electromagnetic frequency that comes from cell towers aren’t fully understood. Pond said she thinks it’s “conniving” of Telus to approach the church – which would be paid a small amount for leasing its property, if a deal went through. “Most of the congregation doesn’t live in the immediate vicinity,” she said. “The benefit of any cell service for this neighbourhood is miniscule. They can go and put the tower somewhere else.” Liz Sauvé, a spokeswoman for Telus, said the company is still in the very early stages of drafting a proposal for a new cell tower. The site on the Baptist church land is one of several that are being assessed in the area, she said, adding the company has not reached a deal with the church. Sauvé said once Telus narrows down its preferred site options, there will be public consultation. “We’re very conscious of visibility and aesthetic concerns,” she said. The District of West Vancouver hasn’t received any application for a tower from Telus yet, said Jeff MacDonald, spokesman for the district. Plans for any tower more than 15 metres tall would have to go through a public process with the municipality, he said.

In 2013, after the public voiced opposition to a plan by Rogers to put up cell towers on highway land, and the municipality voted against it, the company abandoned the plan.

“Council heard very loud and clear during the public hearings that residents were opposed,” said MacDonald.

Sauvé said the only reason the towers are being proposed now is demand for cell service is growing exponentially on the North Shore.

“The North Shore and West Vancouver are very heavy data users,” she said, adding the company frequently gets complaints about dropped connections. “It’s frustrating for people, especially if they want to work from home.” Alex Rose, a consultant who works from home in West Vancouver, is one of those who’d like better service.

“I have service that is execrable, with constant drop outs,” he said. Rose said at one point he cancelled his landline to cut costs, but soon had to put it in again. “Earning a living I need a good quality network service,” he said. Calls to the West Vancouver Baptist Church were not returned.

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