West Van considers cell phone towers, rooftop antennae

A possible cell phone tower proposed by Rogers for West Vancouver. The
A possible cell phone tower proposed by Rogers for West Vancouver. The 'slender plate' is designed to hide what is inside.
— image credit: Rogers

Many West Vancouver residents can’t put down their smartphones.

They carry them everywhere, making phone calls, texting, emailing, playing games, Tweeting, searching Facebook.

But this has become a big problem.

Cellphone companies are receiving complaints of dropped calls and slow upload and download speeds in West Van as more and more data is consumed.

The biggest culprit may not be smartphones, especially in recent months. More West Van residents are buying iPads and other tablets that use an enormous amount of data to work.

“We’re finding that residents here are early adopters for the latest technologies and, of course, they expect their devices will work,” said a spokesman for Telus. “The areas of marginal coverage are actually most of the district and largely residential areas.”

So what’s the solution?

More wireless communication facilities in the municipality so more data is available.

There are three options: receivers on telephone poles, cellphone towers or rooftop antennae.

West Vancouver council members think the first idea is probably best, but said the facilities should not be placed on utility poles on residential roads.

Another more controversial options is adding cellphone towers which, according to a report presented at Monday’s council meeting, should stay away from residential neighbourhoods.

Instead, the towers could be built in the undeveloped Upper Lands or in the Upper Lands highway corridor.

According to the report, the cell towers shouldn’t “significantly impact the foreground of residents uphill,” meaning they could be visible from some homes, but not directly obscure the view.

And, lastly, another option is to place receivers on rooftops throughout West Van. They would be located on top of apartment buildings or commercial shops, not private family homes. But this also poses a problem due to the limited number of large buildings in the municipality.

Although West Van staff have worked with cellphone companies on aesthetics, some audience members said this is not nearly enough.

The health effects of having receivers nearby needs to be examined, said Liz Walker from Citizens for Safe Technology.

“[There is] silencing of concerns most relevant to the average citizen, such as property value, personal health and the health of their surrounding environment,” she told council.

The District of West Vancouver has little power to say where cell towers and antennae go but can establish guidelines, said Geri Boyle, manager of community planning. Industry Canada, not the district, looks into any health issues associated with cellphones.

West Van staff will report back to council in April with an updated Wireless Communication Facility Policy.

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