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Telus shifts Comox Valley tower, neighbours concerned as decision pending

Telus is proposing a new location for a cell tower in Dove Creek. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Telus has changed the location of a 200-foot cell tower proposal in Dove Creek, placing a bigger footprint on agricultural land.

According to Andrea Burch who lives on the neighbouring property of the proposed tower, many nearby residents find the location worse.

The proposed telecommunications tower at 3505 Dove Creek Road has been moved out of view from Condensory Road and the One Spot Trail. However, the new site is located hundreds of metres into agricultural zoning in Dove Creek.

“It’s less satisfactory,” said Burch. “It’s much closer to residences. Two of our neighbours, and ourselves, any window you look out of in your house… you will see the flashing lights in the tower.”

The new location places the tower within roughly 500 metres of Burch’s home. A media spokesperson for Telus said the move was made with a few factors in mind.

“We have made the decision to relocate the cell tower to a new location that will be less visible for the majority of residents in this area while still providing optimal network coverage,” said Olivia Andolfatto in an email to the Record.

Residents, including Burch, had protested the previous location — saying it was near to the One Spot Trail. The proposed new location is hundreds of metres away. It also takes the tower out of sight while driving down Condensory Road.

A simulated picture of what a proposed 200-foot cell tower would look like. The vision is seen as if driving down Condensory Road in Dove Creek. Telus has since change the plan, moving the proposed cell tower away. The new location would be less visible from Condensory Road. (Photo: Comox Valley Regional District)

The new location, however, brings new concerns.

The tower would require infrastructure. Burch, who shares a property line with the land at 3505 Dove Creek Road, said there is no service for electricity at the new site. Telus would need to extend power lines into the property. It would also have to build a 400-metre road to get to the tower.

“Towers don’t need to be in the middle of productive farmland,” said Burch. “The bottom line is no location at 3505 Dove Creek is going to be satisfactory. No one in the neighbourhood is going to agree on that.”

In 2021 neighbours amassed a petition with more than 150 signatures. They called on local leadership to block the tower, which at the time was in a different spot on the property.

RELATED: Communication tower proposed for Comox Valley met with opposition

The area is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

For that reason, many neighbours believe the telecommunications tower doesn’t belong. Some complain of irony — they are not allowed to erect signs, but their neighbour can install a 200-foot cell tower.

Due to jurisdiction, however, Telus is within its rights to propose the tower.

Applications for cell towers go to the federal level, with more authority than provincial jurisdiction like the ALR. Cell tower proposals are not bound by the same regulations that govern homesteads.

Telus has been trying to secure a spot on the property for more than two years. The utility company wants to provide wireless high-speed internet, and to offload traffic from a cell tower in Courtenay.

The tower is also important for public safety, Andolfatto said. Roughly 80 per cent of 9-1-1 calls are sent from mobile phones. Telus’ cell service in the area around Dove Creek has historically been weak, making emergency calls unreliable.

The tower will also support growing demand for connectivity throughout the community. The land at 3505 Dove Creek has been the best option for Telus to accomplish those goals.

Pins show the updated location of a proposed cell tower in Dove Creek. (Photo: Comox Valley Regional District)

Local leadership will weigh in

In February, Comox Valley’s electoral directors are set to make a decision. They will decide whether or not to give Telus a “letter of concurrence” for the new tower site. The letter would allow Telus to further its tower application.

The Electoral Area Services Committee – made up of Daniel Arbour, Edwin Grieve and Richard Hardy – aims to meet on February 26 about the letter. That is not confirmed, however, until the agenda for the meeting is released.

Media relations at Comox Valley Regional District told the Record that if a letter of concurrence is not given, Telus has the option to escalate the process. Telus could escalate up to the federal government for dispute resolution — or withdraw.

The Innovation, Science and Economic Development department has the final jurisdiction when it comes to cell towers. It can make a decision when two parties – like Telus and the CVRD – are unable to come to an agreement.

That kind of involvement is “very rare,” a media spokesperson for ISED told the Record. Most concerns are addressed before they get to federal jurisdiction.

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Connor McDowell

About the Author: Connor McDowell

Started at the Record in May 2023. He studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax
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