Naramata resident Pete Ehlers has lived in the community for years, and the last thing he wants to see when he looks up from his rural property is a Telus tower.
Ehlers says he learned of the plans for the wireless site on private property on Smethurst Road a few months ago by word of mouth.
"My reaction at the time was, wow, that is really close to where I live, and I was unhappy no one had approached us," he said. "Then just last week, I got a blurb from Telus, saying they were proposing a 40 metre cell tower, along with pictures. That's when I got shocked by the scale of it."
According to Telus communications manager Liz Sauve, Telus is planning to invest at least a half million dollars to build a new wireless site to ensure local residents continue to have the high quality wireless service they depend on.
"Our existing sites in the area are 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 said.
"These days at least 60 percent of calls to 911 are made from a cell phone making access to reliable wireless services critical for the safety of residents and travellers in the area," she added.
The new site being proposed is a monopole, which is a long pole much like a lamppost.
A lot of thought has been put into the location of the infrastructure to ensure it provides the maximum amount of coverage where it's needed, while also blending in with the landscape. While the first choice is to always place a site on an existing tall piece of infrastructure, there isn't an appropriate structure in this area.
It is proposed for 1415 Smethurst, and will be painted green to make it blend in with the trees in the area.
"This is the best location for the site because it's far away from the majority of properties in the community, while still in the area where coverage is greatly needed," stated Sauve.
However, Ehlers claims his home and deck are right below the location and other properties are even closer.
His other concerns include the environmental impact on hawks that nest in the surrounding trees and other species native to the area, health issues and its placement in front of a viewpoint along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.
RDOS Naramata director Karla Kozakevich is keeping a close eye on the situation as well.
She said there is a need for improved cell service in the area, but this doesn't seem like the best location based on the height.
"From what we can tell it would be in an area, where from the KVR you would be looking right at it," she said. "The province has spent considerable money on that portion of the trail, so it's not great that it would go in there. I would like them to look at alternative locations."
Currently Telus is in the public consultation phase of the process and are inviting residents in the area to send any questions or comments they have about the proposal to [email protected] any time before July 13.
The team will be responding to all the questions that come in.
Kozakevich said after July 13, Telus will come to the RDOS board with further information.
Ehlers said he is hopeful there will be a public consultation meeting on the matter.
"Currently my efforts are in raising public awareness, and we will see what happens next," he said. "My goal is to get the commentary flowing, because there is not a lot of time."
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