Telus cancels Hedley project after cell tower controversy

Controversy over tower location results in cancellation of project

Concept view of cellular tower proposed to be located on a Telus lot in Hedley.

Concept view of cellular tower proposed to be located on a Telus lot in Hedley.

Hedley’s opportunity to access Telus wireless internet services has been shelved for the time being after Telus announced it was not going to proceed with the project at this time.

Last winter,Telus undertook the consultation process for the site. Part of Telus’ Connecting BC agreement with the province, the purpose of the tower was to provide wireless services to Hedley, as well as wireless service along five kilometres of Highway 3.

Noting that wireless was “today’s infrastructure,” Telus’ Manager for Land Projects, Chad Marlatt told the board that a primary reason for locating a tower in Hedley was former Director Elef Christensen’s request for service during his term. Marlatt explained that the consultation process had been followed, the project having  received generally good reviews.

The tower, to be located on Telus property at 796 Scott Avenue was to be of a “monopole” design, reduced from 25 to 20 metres in height.

Area “G” Director Angelique Wood posed some difficult questions to Marlatt with respect to the economic benefits to Hedley the tower would have, describing local internet provider China Creek Internet as a small, locally run operation that Telus could run out of business.

Marlott sidestepped the question, saying he could not comment on such a scenario.

Wood also took Telus to task for not taking into account Wireless Telecommunications Association’s guidelines regarding placement of towers in areas that respect the public view.  She pointed out that a private landowner in Hedley had offered Telus the opportunity to place the tower on his property at no cost, yet the company refused to even speak with him.

Wood also noted that in many of the resident’s responses that Telus considered favourable to their plans there was also an expressed disfavour with the location.

“Forty- five of the responses said, ‘ Love the service, not  the location,’” Woods said.

She asked the board to table the recommendation – to provide a letter of concurrence to Industry Canada for the proposed tower –  until she had time to conduct another poll with the residents of Hedley for a secret ballot on the issue within the next two weeks.

West Bench Director Michael Brydon noted that Telus’ Connecting BC contract was for 1,700 kilometres of wireless territory, but was not location specific.

“Telus is under no obligation to provide this service to Hedley,” he observed.

Area “D” Director Tom Siddon said that there was a case to be made for benefits to Hedley, but if Telus was ignoring recommendations for tower installations, it shouldn’t be supported.

“I’m not convinced there isn’t another site,”  he said, adding that a 70 foot high tower in the middle of a residential community wasn’t acceptable.

“We have to tell Telus that this isn’t good enough,” he said.

Noting that the community was fairly evenly divided on the issue, Wood said on March 8 that if forced to choose, she wasn’t sure how a vote would go.

“Hedley residents have their backs up against the wall as for the tower location,” Wood observed, unsure how the community might weigh the benefits over the aesthetics of having the tower in the centre of the community.

Unfortunately for those anxious for cell service in Hedley, Telus announced March 12 that it would not proceed with the project, given the “surprising amount of opposition experienced,” said Telus Media Relations rep Shawn Hall.

“The cabling, fibre optics and other relocation costs would have been too prohibitive to make another location viable,” he explained, “so at this time Telus has decided not to proceed with the project.”