Ladysmith council asks Telus to look at other options for siting new telecommunications tower

Telus would like to build a 14.9-metre monopole in downtown Ladysmith, but councillors wonder if there is a better site.

A proposal to build a Telus telecommunications tower in downtown Ladysmith is getting a second look after town council asked for other location options.

Telus would like to construct a 14.9-metre-tall telecommunications tower at the Telus central office at 11 Roberts St. The monopole would be painted dark green to try to blend into the nearby trees, and all the antennae would be concealed in the tower.

During its meeting on Feb. 18, council voted on the colour of the tower and agreed that if there are future requests for additional heights or external antennae to be added to the facility, further consultation will take place with the Town of Ladysmith. However, council did not agree to the location at that meeting, as a number of councillors expressed a desire to explore other options.

Telecommunications facilities are within federal jurisdiction, and while local zoning powers do not apply to towers such as this one, Industry Canada policy requires a telecommunications proponent to consult with the local land use authority in certain circumstances, Felicity Adams, the Town’s director of development services, explained in her report.

According to Telus, the existing site that provides coverage to Ladysmith, which is located on Gabriola Island, is reaching its capacity limit due to increased wireless usage. So Telus is now looking for another site within Ladysmith that can meet such capacity demand and maintain the quality of service.

Telus made a presentation about the proposed tower to the Town’s Heritage Revitalization Advisory Commission in January, and the commission recommended where the tower should be sited on the property — on the east side, which would be partially screened by the Telus building and would enable the equipment to be contained in the existing garage — that the tower be painted dark green to reduce visual impact, and that Telus consult with the neighbours.

Telus sent notifications to residents within 45 metres of the proposed tower and also to the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association.

Rupinder Basi of Altus Group was at the government services committee meeting on Feb. 18 to make a presentation to council on behalf of Telus.

More and more Canadians are using wireless devices, and wireless devices are becoming an important part of community safety infrastructure, explained Basi.

“The rationale for our proposal today is to help improve wireless coverage within the community for residents, local businesses, emergency services and the travelling public, and to also keep up with the more recent demand for data services as a result of increased use of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other wireless devices,” he said.

Telus is proposing a fully-shrouded 14.9-metre monopole.

“This structure would have all the antennae mounted within the pole, so it’s a much cleaner design,” explained Basi.

The structure will be designed so it meets all Industry Canada requirements, as well as Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 standards for all devices that emit a wireless signal, explained Basi.

Coun. Gord Horth expressed surprise that Telus would choose this site and not one higher up the hill.

“I think we’re getting one option and we’re trying to shoehorn it into one site that Telus has,” he said. “I just think it merits we look at more options.”

Basi told council that radio frequency engineers looked for a site in the downtown core that would provide the best coverage. Initially, Telus was looking at a site on First Avenue, but the company chose to look elsewhere after Town staff expressed a desire to maintain the heritage feel of the main street.

Coun. Jill Dashwood spoke in support of the site but said that as the town expands, the Roberts Street site would be too low to provide coverage to the area northwest of town.

“I’m wondering if it would save you money to look up the hill for the future rather than needing to expand not too far down the road,” she said.

This site has been identified for providing coverage for the near future, explained Basi.

“In terms of addressing coverage in the downtown area, this is the best option,” he told council.

Coun. Bill Drysdale pointed out that the system has crashed during Light Up when there are thousands of people downtown, and he feels the ideal location for a tower would be Third Avenue because it would reach the top of the town and the downtown area.

One of Hutchins’s concerns was raising the tower in the future.

“This opens a door we will have no control over,” he said. “We will have a say, but we can’t stop it. The question is, is this the best location for our town in the short term and long term? The problem is when this goes from 14.9 metres to 30 metres, what happens? Is it better to be setting it up on Sixth Avenue?”

Drysdale supported the Roberts Street site.

“I don’t see any other location that would be easy to site a tower without pushback from the public,” he said. “This is the one I think has the least impact on our citizens and gives us the coverage we need.”

Councillors have asked staff and Telus to explore other options for siting the tower.

“I think we should be looking at the bigger picture,” said Horth. “Personally, I’d like to see other options and look at it more holistically.”