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Cell tower opposition made official

Whistler council issues letter of non-concurrence



Whistler's mayor and council have made their opposition to a proposed cell tower on the corner of Lorimer Road and Highway 99 official.

On June 9, council directed municipal staff to send a letter of non-concurrence to Industry Canada, expressing the Resort Municipality of Whistler's strong opposition to the proposed tower.

"This is something that's been in front of us since (SBA Canada) submitted an application for the antenna back in May of 2014," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, adding that since that time, the RMOW has heard from a wide range of people in opposition.

"The rationale goes from everything from visual and visitor impact, lack of consistency with zoning and lack of, quite frankly, evidence that this antenna is even necessary for improved cellular service," she said.

An administrative report to council outlined 12 key factors in the decision to issue a letter of non-concurrence — visual impact and zoning inconsistencies among them.

The report also highlights a lack of consistency with a number of municipal bylaws.

Back in January, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources told Pique that the proponent has a License of Occupation from the ministry that allows the Crown land to be used as a communications site.

However, a cell tower is not part of the currently approved management plan, and the license holder would have to make a request to the ministry to change the plan to include a cell tower.

"The ministry would not approve the amendment to the current management plan if the Municipality of Whistler refused to grant authorization under their bylaws, or if the proposal was a threat to public health and safety," a ministry spokesperson said at the time.

A copy of the RMOW's letter of non-concurrence will be forwarded to the ministry.

The ministry was unable to provide an update before press time.

A spokesperson for SBA Communications declined to comment.

The application is now in the hands of federal Minister of Industry James Moore.

"I think that the rationale for issuing the letter of non-concurrence is really quite solid," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"But again, it's out of our hands. Once we issue the letter of non-concurrence then it's over to the feds."

But the fact that Whistlerites even had a chance to voice their opposition to the proposal is a win, the mayor said — in other cases cell towers have gone up with zero community consultation whatsoever.

"I'm very happy that we put that (antenna siting) protocol in place so that both our local government — and more importantly the members of the public — had some input into this application," she said.

"Had we not put that protocol in place this could have all just gone forward without any input from anybody at the local level at all."

All told, the RMOW received 117 statements opposed to the tower, 14 statements in favour and four neutral responses.

An online petition started by the Whistler Cell Tower Action Group (WCTAG) gathered 1,100 individual signatures.

"I just would like to share and extend on behalf of WCTAG our gracious thanks for the focus and efforts of all of you on the topic that's (on the agenda) tonight," WCTAG member Stan Kranjc told council before the meeting.

Kranjc went on to ask that council consider a review of the filing fee for cell tower applications, as well as further analyze potential sites for future cell towers, noting that WIND Mobile is likely still interesting in coming to Whistler.

"We wish to see them succeed and ultimately they wish to be in our community, so I suspect we'll ultimately be revisiting this topic again in the not-too-distant future," Kranjc said. "(We) need to be proactively considering the other locations that we might direct them towards."