Telus is not trimming the height of new cell towers to avoid having to notify the public about their construction, a spokesperson for the company said last Thursday, May 29.
Liz Sauvé was responding to a Times query made after the issue was raised at a Township council meeting.
A resident had emailed council to complain a new Telus cell tower was being built at 2535 240 St. without notification.
The tower was 300 metres from the Wix Brown Elementary school, the resident said.
When Councillor Charlie Fox raised the matter during the May 5 afternoon meeting, he speculated the tower was “under the threshold” of 15 metres where a company must notify nearby residents.
Community development and engineering general manager Ramin Seifi told council when Township staff contacted Telus, they were told the tower in question was just under the limit.
“We expressed some concern with the lack of consultation and apparent lack of process being followed and we were advised … that they, in fact, had made sure that the height of the tower is just below the Industry Canada requirement for public consultation of 15 metres,” Seifi told council.
“In fact, it’s 14.9 metres,” Seifi added.
He went on say that at least two other Telus cell towers were being built at the same height, just below 15 metres.
In her response to The Times, the Telus spokesperson said decisions about the height of an antennae are based on technical concerns.
“We build sites to the height that’s required,” Sauvé said.
Sauvé said the company has seven wireless sites in the Township under various stages of development ranging in size from one that is 40 metres tall to one that “is simply an antenna on the side of an existing structure.”
Sauvé added the Township has expressed a preference for shorter towers, and Telus is “respecting that by building smaller sites wherever possible, as we’re doing in this case.”
Earlier this year, federal Industry Minister James Moore announced that Canadian telecommunications companies would, in the future, be required to consult with communities when it comes to building new cellphone towers of any size.
The move by the federal government was a response to complaints that the height limit was being exploited as a loophole by cellphone companies that have built towers across Canada just under 15 metres, apparently to bypass the requirement for public consultation.
The change does not apply to any towers approved before the new rules took effect.
Last year, after several controversies over cell tower placement, Langley Township council approved a new municipal bylaw that requires an 80 per cent yes vote from people living near any proposed new cell phone antenna.
Under the new rules, cell phone companies will have to pay the cost of polling residents within a 500 metre radius of the proposed towers.
At the time, Telus government affairs manager Chad Marlatt told council while the Township doesn’t actually have legal authority to prevent construction of cell towers, Industry Canada, the federal authority that does have the power, would likely defer to the municipality.
Marlatt also told council Telus knows most people don’t want a cell tower near their homes.
Usually, he said, only 10 per cent of nearby residents will support a new cell tower.