Residents feeling ignored over tower

Residents feel RDNO reps not representing their interests over Telus tower

Some Commonage residents claim concerns over a telecommunications tower are getting static.

There are 10 or 12 properties on Howards Road and they’re upset that the Regional District of North Okanagan is unwilling to represent their interests over Telus’ plans for a 60-metre-tall antenna.

“We have begged the regional district to get involved and they just sit on their hands,” said Val Harrison, a resident.

RDNO has asked Telus to meet directly with the residents but it has indicated that telecommunications towers are outside of its jurisdiction.

Harrison understands RDNO can’t stop the project, but she believes it could facilitate talks between residents and the corporation.

“There is nobody that wants to do anything. They are our elected representatives,” she said.

The residents are also not pleased with Telus.

“They claim they’ve answered our questions and they don’t have to meet with us,” said Harrison.

RDNO officials insist they met with the residents initially and they have asked Telus to get together with the neighbourhood.

“One can appreciate what they are saying but the federal government has regulations regarding these issues,” said director Mike Gavinchuk.

“There is nothing we can really do about this.”

Telus states its public process over the tower began in May 2010.

“We ran ads in the newspapers and we sent letters to the residents,” said Shawn Hall, corporation spokesperson.

“We have received four letters and e-mails with concerns. We don’t see any significant opposition. We have sat down with the four individuals. If a public meeting is warranted, we will hold one.”

Hall added that the federal government requires Telus to consult with the regional district because it is responsible for land use matters.

The residents’ primary concern about the tower is the height.

“It will be the height of a 20-storey building,” said Harrison, adding that could negatively impact property values.

There are also questions if close proximity to the tower may harm their health.

“Nobody really knows if there is any impact,” said Harrison.

“Why would you risk it? Why wouldn’t you go to a place where people aren’t living?”

Hall says Telus is willing to address any visual concerns.

“Studies have shown these structures don’t have an impact on property values,” he said.

Hall added that numerous studies have looked at the potential links between the energy emitted by towers and health.

“If you look at wireless sites, they are putting out 15 watts an hour. That is barely enough to charge a couple of strings of Christmas lights.”

Hall says potential tower sites were reviewed and the Howards Road area was deemed to be suitable.

“It will provide coverage to Predator Ridge, Okanagan Landing and around Okanagan Lake. It will prevent serious degredation of wireless service that is forming,” he said of pressures on the system.

“Enhanced 911 service is important. There are demands to fill in coverage gaps.”