Sooke council has rejected a 45-metre cellphone tower that would have expanded coverage of a new wireless carrier in the area.
“There were concerns raised by neighbours that they asked be addressed,” said Mayor Maja Tait, who voted against the tower at 5154 Sooke Rd. at last week’s council meeting. “In the modern world, technology is something we depend on and expect access to. But at the same time, once a tower is there, it’s there. So you need willing hosts.”
The carrier, Freedom Mobile, is aiming to launch an improved 3G and LTE network this fall.
About 20 nearby residents said they had issues with the proposed tower, including health concerns about potential exposure to radio-frequency waves, impeded views and impact on property values.
“That might not sound like a lot of people in a city, but for that area it is,” Tait said.
Another application for a tower at Otter Point Road is still under consideration.
Tait recognized that cellphone reception has been an issue in the area and needs improvement.
“It’s an ongoing challenge. Our topography has a lot to do with it. We have peaks, valleys, ocean and everything in between,” she said.
Freedom Mobile said the tower would have filled in coverage gaps from the town centre, east to Langford and Victoria.
“To leave this coverage area unaddressed is to entirely defeat the purpose of a mobile network. The benefit of continuous mobile coverage is that customers receive reliable access to voice, text and data services as the end user moves freely through the network,” the company told council.
“Further to the obvious convenience of these services, it also provides peace of mind to Freedom customers knowing they have immediate access to emergency services.”
There are more than 40 cell towers in Sooke, primarily serving the Rogers and Telus networks. Only towers more than 15 metres tall are required to go through a consultation process with the municipality.
Sooke is one of several areas on the South Island where Freedom Mobile is trying to expand its network. Freedom Mobile is owned by Shaw Communications, which acquired Wind Mobile in 2016 and rebranded.
“We are committed to improving our services and product offerings across Vancouver Island that will offer new and potential customers more choice and greater value for their dollar,” vice-president Chethan Lakshman said in an email.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Sooke community and local government to find the most appropriate location and design for network infrastructure that delivers the services that residents and businesses are looking for.”