An artist’s rendering of what the proposed new telecommunications installation in Langford could look like when facing southeast from Station Avenue. Image by Freedom Mobile

Langford cell tower proposal triggers larger debate

Langford amends its notification policy to allow more time for public input

A new 30-metre tall cell tower could soon be installed on Station Avenue in Langford.

But the process to get there has Langford council concerned, especially as the final approval comes from the federal government and the City can only advise on the matter.

Tawny Verigin with Cypress Land Services Inc., an agent for wireless telecommunications provider Freedom Mobile, gave a brief presentation at Monday’s council meeting on the company, which plans to launch a mobile network in the region during the next year. To do that, Freedom Mobile, a subsidiary of Shaw Communications, has targeted 871 Station Ave. as a potential location for a monopole tower that would ultimately connect to its overall network.

Mayor Stew Young struggled to accept that no other alternative to a stand alone tower could be found and questioned why a hydro pole could not be utilized to support this infrastructure, as other companies are doing in the City.

Verigin noted BC Hydro has strict criteria on which poles can be used by telecommunication companies, including limiting one company to each. “Of the poles that fit that criteria (in this area), there are no poles available,” she said.

The proposed site was the seventh considered by the company, she added, but no agreement could be reached with any of the other property owners. “Unfortunately, there are no roof tops available, so we’ve had to default to this last option,” she said, adding, “we have made an effort to reduce visibility.”

But that didn’t sit well with Young, who wondered why the company had not asked for the City’s help in approaching or connecting with property owners and BC Hydro. He asked that City staff contact Hydro directly to see if a compromise could be reached.

During the public consultation period – an invitation was mailed by the City on the company’s behalf to all residents within a 150-metre radius of the proposed site – only three responses were received and only one supported the proposal.

Coun. Lillian Szpak wanted more information on how residents were notified and the time frame they were given to voice their concerns. A resident in attendance noted the mailout was received on a Friday and the deadline for responses was the following Friday.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, formerly Industry Canada, regulates these installations and the public notification process. However, since Langford has an existing notification policy, companies must follow that and not the federal regulation, which would give residents more time to respond with feedback.

Coun. Denise Blackwell expected that telecommunications companies would be required to follow both policies. “I see that as a problem and something we’ll need to rectify,” she said. “It should (also) come to us with a recommendation from staff and not just appear on the agenda.”

Council ultimately agreed to amend the City’s notification policy to bring it in line with the federal policy, that companies must speak with City staff first and existing hydro poles would have to be utilized first.

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