Residents oppose plans for East Bench cell tower

By on December 12, 2017

Denis Potter, the secretary with the board of the Osoyoos Rural Ratepayers Association, says he and other neighbours aren’t necessarily against a new Telus cellphone tower being erected on the East Bench, but they don’t want it built at the proposed location, which is close to numerous homes and rural properties. (Keith Lacey photo)

A group of rural property owners on the East Bench of Osoyoos has rallied to voice their opposition to a new telecommunications tower being proposed near a residential neighbourhood on 33rd Street.

Denis Potter, the secretary with the board of the Osoyoos Rural Ratepayers Association (ORRA), said he and numerous neighbours aren’t necessarily against a new Telus cellphone tower being erected on the East Bench, but they don’t want it built at the proposed location, which is close to numerous homes and rural properties.

“It’s just not a good location … there are a lot of homes in this area and we don’t think a big tower, like the one being proposed, belongs in a residential neighbourhood,” said Potter, noting an existing Telus telecommunications tower is located 225 metres north of the proposed new tower on 33rd Street.

Liz Sauve, the senior communications manager for Telus, said the proposed is the only place in town that will ensure “we provide the same level of service that we currently provide” and the company will be recommending this site to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) in early January.

Two other proposed sites – one further up the hill on the East Bench and another closer to town – don’t provide adequate cellphone coverage for current and future customers, said Sauve.

Early last week, members of the ORRA met with (RDOS) Area A director Mark Pendergraft to discuss the proposed Telus telecommunications tower.

Following that meeting, a motion was passed unanimously asking RDOS directors to take their concerns seriously when considering this matter.

The motion read, “We, as a taxpayers’ association, would prefer that this tower be located away from any residential development. We have two possible recommended choices. One is up the slope to the west side of Osoyoos Lake, and the other is on the east side of the lake, but further up the mountain slope. Either of these choices is preferable to the proposed location on 33rd Street.”

The existing Telus tower on the East Bench was initially installed about 30 years ago, said Potter, who has lived in his home near the proposed tower site for more than four decades.

The tower had relatively small rooftop antennas and low visual impact for most residents in the area, he said.

Over the years, newer unsightly antenna systems have been added, increasing in both size and number, he said.

“Until recently, there has been zero public consultation with neighbouring property owners regarding this existing facility,” he said.

Telus is now proposing to install an 18-metre (59 feet) tower only a stones-throw from the exiting tower.

This tower, with antennas on top, would be about twice the height of existing power poles in the area and much taller than the old one, said Potter.

“The new location would make a tall tower highly visible and unsightly to several residents, especially if Transport Canada requires aeronautical markings and nighttime lighting,” he said.

Although various health agencies claim that the radiation from cellphones and cell towers is not harmful, the long-term effects remain a matter for much debate among the scientific and health care community, he said.

Many studies suggest that radiation hypersensitivity for a small percentage of the population is an acknowledged fact, he said.

Since long-term effects are still unproven, some residents remain concerned about future health problems, he said.

However, the most common concern is the size of the proposed tower and its ability to block views of Osoyoos Lake and hindrance of “esthetic viewscapes,” he said.

Telus did advertise a public hearing relating to this matter in the middle of November in the Osoyoos Times, but many residents didn’t know about the meeting and only a handful attended, said Potter.

“They advertised a second time, but most people didn’t get their paper in the mail until the day of the meeting,” he said.

“Telus officials tried to downplay concerns over the size of the tower and how a huge tower like this would look in the middle of a residential rural neighbourhood,” he said. “It was made very clear by the group of neighbours that we’re not opposed to a new cell tower being built, but we really don’t think the proposed site is a good one.’

Potter isn’t optimistic ORRA’s opposition to the new telecommunications tower will make a difference when the matter is dealt with by the RDOS board in early January.

“I have a gut feeling this project won’t be stopped, but I hope I’m wrong,” he said.

One reason for optimism, said Potter, is the fact a group of neighbours on the other side of town raised hell when they found out two years ago Rogers was proposing to build an even bigger (115 foot) cell tower in the middle of vineyards on 122nd Avenue, just outside town limits near the Shell gas station.

Because of the opposition by neighbours, Rogers withdrew its application and halted plans for the cell tower in that location.

Sauve said Telus wants to continue to provide high quality wireless telecommunications services to Osoyoos and can only do so by erecting a new tower.

The lease for the current tower is ready to expire and a new and larger tower is needed to meet the growing demands of Osoyoos and area customers, she said.

“The proposed site is the only one available that will provide the same level of coverage that our customers currently enjoy,” she said.

Telus engineers did detailed studies on two other sites and neither were suitable as one had issues “with spillage” from other providers from the United States on the other side of the border and the location proposed closer to downtown provided inadequate service to cellphone customers in town and those travelling from Osoyoos north towards Oliver, she said.

Telus’ next step is to formally ask the RDOS board to accept its application to build the new tower at the proposed site on 33rd Street, she said.

If the RDOS board approves the request, construction to build the new tower would start in early spring, as would the project to tear down the existing tower, she said.

If the RDOS board rejects the application, Telus would have no choice but to “go back to the drawing board” and find another suitable site for a new tower, she said.

Anyone opposing the project must be received by Telus as of Dec. 15, which is this Friday.

Jim Liebel, who has lived on the East Bench for decades, said Telus officials “didn’t’ want to listen” to neighbours who suggested there are other great locations in Osoyoos to place a new tower.

“When I told them of a couple of places I thought were much better, they really didn’t want to listen to any other suggestion,” he said.

The only neighbour who approves of this location is the property owner who is “being paid good money by Telus” to locate the proposed tower on his land, said Liebel.

Not only would the tower block views, it would “be a serious eyesore” to the area, including huge amounts of tourists who walk in this area during the busy tourist season, said Liebel.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

The existing cellphone tower, pictured here, is located 225 metres north of the proposed new tower on 33rd Street. (Keith Lacey photo)

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One Comment

  1. Jo

    December 14, 2017 at 9:45 am

    You people are worried about landscape??? An “eyesore”?
    You should do a little research on “cell towers”.
    They were designed for the “depopulation” agenda.
    They are nothing more than microwave towers. Nothing whatsoever to do with “cell phones”.
    Slowly melting our brains.
    You might as well stick your head in a microwave oven and turn it on.
    There is much proof, documentation and , YouTube videos on the subject.
    Smartphones and microwave towers towers work hand in hand to fry your brains.
    But… go ahead and worry about what they look like.
    They will just disguise them as trees as they have done in California.

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