Cellphone tower rattling residents

Proposal is for 45-metre structure in scenic part of Maple Ridge

Rose Hopkins (left) and her sister Doris Savio are upset that a cell phone tower is planned for a field along Dewdney Trunk Road by Cottonwood Drive in Maple Ridge.

Another proposal to put up a 45-metre cellphone tower in an iconic Maple Ridge viewscape is rallying neighbours, while the district tries to figure out its own approach to the overall issue.

Doris Savio has collected a 100-name petition against a Telus tower at 23570 – 124th Ave., north of Dewdney Trunk Road.

She lives nearby and says the tower will be located near trees that form part of an iconic view of Maple Ridge made famous by photographer Bob Herger. The scene shows horses grazing in tall grass with tall trees in the background and the Golden Ears mountains looming above.

“I’ve had people paint it. I’ve had one guy come almost every week and take pictures,” said Savio.

People regularly walk by and take photos, she adds, whenever the weather allows it.

“When I went around with the petition, most people signed because of the view.”

Her parents own about a third of the field, which provides the vista and remains in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and living on the property gives her daily views of Golden Ears.

The tower would include equipment that would be enclosed in a shelter at the base of the tower.

“Our concern is, it’s an eyesore,” said Rose Hopkins, sister of Doris.

Savio’s petition asks Maple Ridge mayor and council to stop Telus from building the tower, pointing out it’s a health and environmental issue that will affect property values.

Currently, Maple Ridge follows the default policy of Industry Canada, meaning any company proposing a cellphone tower must consult local government and address any concerns.

As well, anybody who lives within a radius of three times the height of the tower must also be informed, while if the tower is 30 metres or higher, a newspaper ad must be taken out.

However, public information meetings are not required, although they could be if Maple Ridge adopts its own cellphone policy. Cell towers less than 15 metres, though, are exempt from any requirements.

Council considered Monday its own draft cellphone policy that would require public consultation and review of “high-impact” towers – those within 100 metres of residential areas or greater in height than 15 metres in commercial areas, or towers that go into environmentally sensitive or culturally significant areas.

Under the policy, such a proposal would require a public meeting before seeking permission from the district. People who live within 300 metres of a proposed tower would receive mail notification.

The policy, if approved, also would require cellphone towers to be “disguised and unobtrusive and inconspicuous.”

It would also set limits on how close a tower could be located to homes. Towers that are 56 metres or higher would have to be three times the height of the tower from the nearest house.

Towers between 31 to 45 metres in height would have to be at least 100 metres from homes, and those between 15 to 30 metres high would have to be 75 metres distant.

Low-impact cell tower proposals, such as those affixing receivers to building tops, telephone poles or existing towers would be considered low impact and would require only staff review.

Still, a staff report notes that if the district still doesn’t support a proposal, it can’t prevent an applicant from attaining Industry Canada’s OK.

“At the end of the day, my caution is, we can go through all this, we can get all kinds of input, at the end of the day, they can still build the tower anyways,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

The report notes that the District of Maple Ridge needs another cellphone tower of its own.

It’s main tower is on Grant Hill in Thornhill, but the district needs more radio service for its water system, so it wants to put a second tower in the northern part of the district.

Other communications or cellphone companies could also use the tower, which could make other towers unnecessary.

Council could vote on the policy at its Nov. 13 meeting, or it could delay a decision and wait until the Federation of Canadian Municipalities creates its own consultation process in the new year, for adoption by towns and cities across Canada.

Meanwhile, a 60-metre cellphone tower proposed last April for 110th Avenue and 276th Street has been nixed, after opposition this spring by the Whonnock Against Cellphone Tower group.

The application was withdrawn after “extreme opposition” from residents, said Maple Ridge planner Diana Hall.

Foster said the tower was cancelled because the District of Maple Ridge didn’t give its concurrence on the location to Industry Canada. She said cellphone towers should be located on municipal land, and treated as any other piece of infrastructure.

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