Freedom Mobile has over 200 retail locations across Canada, but none on the Island outside the capital region. The company is currently going through the process of getting two new towers approved for Campbell River to serve this area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Freedom Mobile looks at Campbell River for new towers

The Shaw-owned telecom company has two proposed sites in Campbell River currently awaiting approval

Are Campbell River residents soon going to have another option when it comes to cell service?

Freedom Mobile – formerly Wind Mobile and owned by Shaw Communications – is looking to install two new communications towers in Campbell River, which would enable it to offer its services in the region on its own network.

But the installation of the new antennae still have a few hurdles to overcome. Campbell River city council was asked to provide comment on the proposed facilities at its last meeting, despite not really having an official say on the matter, as it is ultimately up to the federal government to decide matters surrounding telecommunications.

The city can, however, ask for certain conditions to be met prior to – or during – installation, which it has done.

The company, according to a report presented to city council last week, has preliminary agreements in place with the owners of 2300 Airport Drive and 2135 Shetland Road to install the new towers on these properties, but council had some concerns it would like to see addressed before giving its blessing on the projects.

The first is environmental monitoring of the tributary of Willow Creek located beside the Airport Drive site during the installation.

The second is the condition that the existing mature trees surrounding the proposed Shetland Drive location be preserved.

These conditions were included in the city’s official comments to Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada, which oversees the federal government’s “Connectivity Strategy,” and thus makes the decisions on land use for telecommunications towers.

While there’s no guarantee these conditions will be granted, ISED policy does require that proponents “try to address reasonable and relevant concerns” raised by residents and municipal governments.

Council also had some concerns surrounding a 30-metre tower being placed right beside the airport.

“Does a tower that’s roughly the size of a 10-storey building right next to the airport comply with all of the height restrictions?” asked Coun. Charlie Cornfield. “I remember when they went to build the hospital in the Comox Valley that there were concerns and height restrictions surrounding that.”

While the height of the proposed tower doesn’t fall within the city’s bylaw restrictions, according to director of planning Peter Wipper, “our bylaws really have no effect with respect to federal regulations, because they oversee this whole process and have jurisdiction over it. But we certainly did confer with the airport manager about the tower and whether there would be any concerns with its location,” and were told it should not pose any issues.

Council decided to back the proposals – with those above conditions – as well as develop a policy of its own in order to be more clear in its position should future applications come before the city.

There is no timeline currently available regarding the possible installation of the towers.

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