A group of concerned residents gathered in May 2020 to protest the planned location of a Telus cellphone tower in Riondel. Telus has since backed off the plan. Photo: Submitted

A group of concerned residents gathered in May 2020 to protest the planned location of a Telus cellphone tower in Riondel. Telus has since backed off the plan. Photo: Submitted

Telus backs off planned cellphone tower in Riondel

A spokesman for the company said the project is ‘on indefinite hold’

Telus says it will not build a cellphone tower in Riondel that was met with community opposition.

A spokesperson for Telus told the Nelson Star that the project was put “on indefinite hold” in June.

“Telus paused the construction to focus on supporting COVID-19-related initiatives throughout the province of British Columbia,” said the spokesperson.

The company had planned to build a 30-metre tower at 315 Fowler St., but Riondel residents opposed the location of the tower over fears it would be an eyesore in the East Shore community.

Related: Riondel protests proposed cell phone tower

Regional District of Central Kootenay Area A director Garry Jackman said he believes there is another reason why Telus has backed off the tower’s construction.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s (ISEDC) antenna tower siting policy requires public consultation to occur, which Telus initiated in 2018.

Jackman said there were no issues with the land usage or Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 radio frequency guidelines, but three residents never received responses to concerns from Telus that are required by federal policy. Other residents, he said, didn’t receive information packages from Telus that had been mailed out.

“I understand that’s why [ISEDC] then told Telus they didn’t follow the protocol, and if Telus wanted to proceed they will have to redo their public consultation.”

Which, Jackman added, he doesn’t think Telus will have the appetite for.

It’s not the first time Telus has backed away from a local tower construction following public scrutiny. A tower planned for Winlaw was scrapped in 2013 when residents criticized its location for being near a public school.

Riondel residents had agreed on a need for improved cell reception, but Jackman said that will be difficult now that Telus is out of the picture.

The province, he said, doesn’t see improved residential coverage to be as pressing as providing highways with reception. Residents who protest tower locations or don’t understand federal regulations, Jackman said, will likely find themselves without an alternative.

“So we’re working against ourselves. And a lack of understanding or willingness to consider the science side of it is leaving some communities in the cold.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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