Telus is proposing to build a 73-metre tower in the Saltery Bay/Stillwater area to improve phone and internet service.
At the January 11 qathet Regional District (qRD) planning committee meeting, directors heard a delegation from Chad Marlatt, from Cypress Land Survey, and Doug Anastos, from Telus, regarding the proposal.
Marlatt said this project is one of about 20 cellular towers along the Sunshine Coast.
“This is one of the last projects and there were a total of four in the qathet Regional District,” said Marlatt. “There’s one up in Lund, one between Lund and Powell River, one just north of Lang Bay and then this project.
“The goal of these projects is to solidify mobility services across the Sunshine Coast to various homes, the roadways and highway, and out on the water.”
Marlatt said wireless services are an important part of any community’s emergency network. He said 80 per cent of all calls come in from wireless devices to 911.
“Wireless is more and more a utility that people expect to have,” said Marlatt. “The Sunshine Coast is no exception, and it has kind of been activated by the pandemic and the need for more services, especially when people are working from home or remotely.”
Marlatt said the proposed tower site is about two and a half kilometres west of Saltery Bay, in the Kent’s Beach Resort area. He said the tower would be servicing Saltery Bay over to Stillwater, across the water to a bit of Nelson Island and Hardy Island, and to solidify coverage along Highway 101.
The proposed site is about 50 metres south of Highway 101, set within a natural opening in the trees. The tree heights there are around 50 metres and the proposed tower needs to be above the treeline.
“This is obviously a challenging area to service because of all of the undulations and large trees and the topography in the area,” said Marlatt. “There’s been some notoriously poor service in the area so it will improve mobility services there.”
Marlatt said a public consultation process for the tower was established and they followed the federal government requirements for consultation. Eight comments were received, he said – five were supportive, one was neutral and two expressed concerns by the two neighbours to the east of the proposed project.
One concern was the use of a ministry of transportation frontage road to access the tower site. Other concerns were about the consultation process itself, plus the perceived health and safety risks. Marlatt said the tower will be in full compliance with Health Canada safety codes, being thousands of times below the allowable limit.
Marlatt said Telus had reworked the project, using an alternate access route to the west of the tower, rather than using the frontage road to the east.
Anastos said Telus has a lot of work underway on the Sunshine Coast. He said a lot of work was done in 2021 and the momentum is being continued this year.
“This is a site where we would like to proceed with construction this year to complete the picture of full coverage on the highway and also on the waterway,” said Anastos.
qRD Electoral Area C director and committee chair Clay Brander said people in his electoral area are going to be excited about having improved cellular service.
Resident comments on process
Area resident Mike Robinson appeared before the committee and said he was generally pleased with changes that had been made to the initial plan. He said he would have liked to have seen a public consultation process where there was a public meeting early on where property owners could have come and asked questions and had answers delivered in public. He said there was a mail questionnaire.
“The reason why I think public consultation would be a boon in this process by way of a public meeting is because a lot of people had questions and they had to ask them independently, and they couldn’t sit with their neighbours and talk about the issues,” said Robinson.
He said he had spent time with Marlatt and Anastos and received an email indicating the alternate access route had been chosen and that was satisfactory to the two adjacent landowners in large measure.
The planning committee voted that it recommend the regional board advise Telus Communications that the regional district concurs with the proposal for a telecommunications facility to be located at 14171 Highway 101 subject to three conditions.
The first was that access to the tower site be provided along the proposed gated alternative west access route. The second was that there be proof of a successful notice of intent application to the Agricultural Land Commission for the placement of fill or removal of soil. The third is completion of a successful public consultation process.