Decade-old West Van cell tower policy revamped
West Vancouver’s policy on cellphone towers is being modernized for the 21st century. The current 14-year-old plan dates back to a time when most people didn’t own a mobile phone, and long before iPhones and BlackBerries were seen by many as an absolute necessity.
Wireless carriers, including Rogers and Wind Mobile, have sought approval from council to construct additional towers and antennae to keep up with West Van residents’ growing demand for coverage.
“Cell sites, which once could be counted on to reliably serve a given area, are now suffering from reduced coverage due to increased demand, and gaps in service are growing,” wrote West Van community planner Geri Boyle in a report to council on July 23.
A draft of the updated policy, which includes details on cellphone tower aesthetic and placement, is available for public review and comment until the end of September.
Around 10 wireless companies have come forward with plans to erect towers and antennae in West Van, Boyle said, but because of time constraints most proposals will be looked at when the new policy is in place
The draft policy says wireless infrastructure should be built outside residential neighbourhoods and avoid schools and daycares. Wireless carriers are expected to build on the same site to decrease the number of locations needed.
However, not all council members thought the draft policy was complete.
“We have a proposal for Westport Road from Wind to erect on telephone polls directly below some neighbours. I went to see them, they were a little disturbed,” said Coun. Bill Soprovich, who said he would like to see extensive public consultation before the draft is finalized.
Coun. Craig Cameron said the policy should include exact distances cell towers can be built from houses, schools and other buildings.
When seeking to put in new infrastructure, wireless companies have to adhere to local governments’ consultation processes, which date back to 1997 for West Vancouver. But Boyle cautioned that wireless carriers could apply to Industry Canada with an “impasse request” if council rejects an application, leading Industry Canada to act as an arbitrator between the two parties. This would diminish West Van council’s say in where the cell towers could be placed, she added.
“We’re not saying no across the board, but rather we’re saying no in certain areas.”