It’s Willow Point or nothing, Telus says of Campbell River tower location

Coun. Larry Samson said he couldn’t move forward with commercializing city parks

Telus will not be considering any other Willow Point locations for a cell phone tower after council rejected Telus’ proposal to put a 30-metre pole in Willow Point Park.

Council, after hearing feedback from Telus’ public consultation period, pulled the plug on an agreement in principle between the city and Telus to put up a tower to improve spotty cell phone coverage in the area.

Coun. Larry Samson said he couldn’t move forward with commercializing city parks nor could he ignore the potential threat from cell towers.

“The science world is divided on this issue,” Samson said. “There’s a Safety Code 6 which feels it’s within the safe limits but there’s also concerns expressed about the RF (radio frequency) waves given off by those cell tower sites.

With cell phones we do have a personal choice whether we decide to carry them or not to carry them.

But with a cell tower in our parks there is no choice – it’s there.”

Coun. Andy Adams said he’s not a scientist and therefore couldn’t comment on the harmful or lack of effects of the tower – what he called a “non issue” – but said he couldn’t move forward with something the public is resisting.

“We are elected to represent the public, and the neighbourhood in there…has made it clear that people are not in favour of this for a multitude of reasons and as a result I can’t support the tower going ahead,” Adams said. “I would encourage Telus, who has been a good corporate sponsor for Willow Point Park and also a good corporate citizen to maybe look at an alternate location.”

But Shawn Hall, representative for Telus, said there is no other option.

“We were working for some years to find a site for a wireless tower that would fill in a coverage gap,” Hall said. “We’ve done an exhaustive search of the area and this was the only suitable option we found. At this time, there are no other possible options and we won’t be pursuing other options.

“We have to accept (cell) service within this area will be poor in the future.”

Adams suggested Telus look at the north east corner of the park, which is more wooded and away from the splash park, playground and tennis courts.

Hall said that location wouldn’t work because the tower would have to be at least 68 metres high to make it out of the trees and the site puts it too far away to have much impact on cell coverage.

“It is unfortunate, we were trying to respond to customer demand for better cellular coverage,” Hall said. “We were hearing from a lot of people in the community.”

But during Telus’ public consultation period, the company largely only heard from residents opposed to the tower.

Nan Latchford, who worked on behalf of the critics, presented council and Telus with a 125-signature petition protesting the tower. Most expressed health concerns and didn’t like the idea of a cell tower being in a park where children play.

Latchford said she is thankful that council took everyone’s concerns to heart when making its decision.

“I’m very grateful for the decision the council has made, and I’m saying that on behalf of everyone I’m representing,” Latchford said. “I did not expect that result but I was hoping for it.”

Latchford said she’s also being cautious in celebrating just yet. She’s concerned Telus will go to Industry Canada to appeal council’s decision and said she plans to send a letter to Industry Canada asking them to respect council’s decision.

Had council approved the tower, it would have gained $15,000 a year in licence fees from Telus.