Cell tower vote requirements questioned

Telus officials raise last-minute objections to new Langley Township rules.

A last-minute objection by Telus failed to prevent passage of a new Langley Township regulation that requires an 80 per cent vote from people living near any proposed new cell phone antenna.

Telus director of government relations Maureen Kirkbride and real estate and government affairs manager Chad Marlatt spoke at the Monday night meeting shortly before the final vote on the new tower regulations.

Kirkbride asked for a postponement to allow company representatives to meet with council and explain their concerns.

They said the 80 per cent requirement would be all but impossible to achieve, but were unable to say what would be an acceptable threshold.

“We don’t want to be prescriptive,” Kirkbride said.

Under questioning by councillor Bob Long, Marlatt said Telus knows most people don’t want a cell tower near their homes.

Usually, he said, only 10 per cent of nearby residents will support a new cell tower.

While the Township doesn’t actually have legal authority to prevent construction of cell towers, Marlatt said Industry Canada, the federal authority that does have the power, will likely defer to the Township.

“They [Industry Canada] don’t actually make decisions,” Marlatt said.

He said Langley needs to upgrade its cell networks to keep up with “overwhelming” demand from a rapidly growing community, and that means upgrading existing towers and adding new ones.

Marlatt said Langley currently has the second highest number of complaints about cell service in B.C.

He was unable to provide specific numbers.

Marlatt and Kirkbride both said better cell coverage would improve public safety because 60 per cent of all 911 calls come from mobile devices.

They said the Telus position is supported by the other cell phone service providers operating in Langley.

Later that night, Township council approved the cell tower regulations by an eight-to-one vote.

Under the new rules, cell phone companies will have to pay the cost of polling residents within a 500 metre radius of the proposed towers.

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