The promise of better wireless service hasn’t been enough to persuade some Naramata residents of the need for a new telecommunications tower in their community.
Telus is currently working through the public consultation phase of a plan to install a 40-metre monopole on a Smethurst Road property next to the KVR Trail, which has prompted some backlash.
“A lot of people have concerns who live around it, for various reasons, one being it usually diminishes property value. And one that’s really important to me is the impact on the KVR,” said Karla Kozakevich, the area director for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
“As you’re going along the KVR, due to (the monopole’s) height, it’s going to be above the trees. You’re going to be looking right at it.”
While authority to permit the tower ultimately rests with Industry Canada, permission would also be required from the Agricultural Land Commission, as the structure would be a non-farm use.
Kozakevich said the RDOS can effectively kill the project by declining to forward Telus’ application to the ALC, so she’ll be listening closely to public sentiment at an open house Thursday from 5-7 p.m at the OAP Hall.
Among those in attendance will be Denys Bouton, who lives about 340 metres from the proposed tower location and helped create a website, www.whatabadidea.com, to raise awareness of the plan since federal law required only a handful of nearby landowners be notified.
“The real problem is (the proposed tower’s) position next to the KVR,” said Bouton.
“I think it would have a profound impact on tourism in this area, and this is an area where last fall the (B.C.) government spent $140,000 to upgrade the trail.”
Telus spokeswoman Liz Sauve said in a statement that the company’s existing infrastructure in the area is nearing capacity, “so without this new site, wireless services in the community will start to degrade in the near future – meaning more dropped calls, slower data speeds, and the like.”
She noted the tower would be painted green to help it blend in with nearby trees, and the proposed location was carefully selected “to ensure it provides the maximum amount of coverage where it’s needed.”
“While our first choice is always to place a site on an existing tall piece of infrastructure,” Sauve added, “there isn’t an appropriate structure in this area.”