A cell phone tower

Community voices on proposed TELUS tower: The yays, the nays and the tech talk

CKTZ News, through an LJI grant to Canada-info.ca

As the Jan. 31 deadline for public feedback on a proposed cell tower on southern Cortes Island approaches, community opinions on the issue remain divided.

TELUS’ proposed 63.1-meter tower is currently cited on the Tla’amin-Nation governed land called Paukeeajim, adjacent to Rexford Road in Manson’s Landing.

“Our first proposal is to relocate the cell tower at 798 Rexford Road to a larger site on Tla’amin Nation land to the south, and our second proposal is for a new cell site on private property off Jimmy Smith Way,” Lena Chen, public affairs staff at TELUS, wrote in a statement to CKTZ on Dec. 15.

CKTZ News made a public appeal for comments and received more interest in interviews from residents with some concern about the proposed tower. CKTZ has attempted to present a full range of attitudes and beliefs, as they were made available.

Proponents of the tower have expressed their support primarily for increased cellular coverage as a public safety measure so that emergency-service calls can be placed across the island and surrounding waterways. Keeping up with the fast-paced change in technology was also mentioned.

“I’m definitely for the TELUS tower. No, they’re not pretty, but they could contribute to save lives through improved communications. And that’s far more important,” Squirrel Cove resident Sandy Hoffman said.

Opponents of the tower have expressed concerns around the safety of high-powered wireless technology, the proximity of the tower to a residential home (approx. 80m), ecological considerations, the possible transformation of the island’s culture that ubiquitous mobile access would bring, to name a few.

“I respect other people’s opinions, but there’s a cost benefit analysis and there are alternatives. And where do you draw the line? One of the reasons a lot of people are here in the islands is to get away from all the world as it is out there and to enjoy the wilderness that we’re surrounded by,” Tiber Bay resident Ron Bazaar said.

A group of residents have mobilized an information campaign, under the name SafeTech, which is calling for as many islanders as possible to participate in the current letter-or-phone-call consultation initiated by TELUS.

One of the CKTZ interviewees, Om Beach, lent technical expertise as a telecommunications professional. He grew up on Cortes and worked full-time at local internet provider Twincomm for 10 years. Although now living on the mainland, he still supports Twincomm’s behind-the-scenes operations remotely.

Beach is suggesting a slightly different location for the current tower that would take it further from the residential street (it would currently sit at less than 100m from a home).

Telus Proposed Pahkeeahjim Site (LineOfSite Projection from 60m above ground level) 50.05176296861347, -124.9877283286364 Image provided by Om Beach.
Alternative site proposed by Om Beach for TELUS tower in question. (LOS Projection from 60m above ground level) 50.049342, -124.988476 Image provided by Om Beach.

In Part 2 of this series, CKTZ will explore the locally-contested issue of what constitutes a proper community consultation.

Top credit: Opinions are divided about the benefits and potential harm from the proposed tower. Photo by Igor on Unsplash