A proposal by Rogers Communications to build wireless telecommunications equipment in Fraser Heights is coming up against some community opposition.
If the plan goes ahead, it would see Rogers build two 50-foot light poles including antennas near the intersection of 157th Street and 110th Avenue. While street lights already exist there, Rogers would replace them and the antennas would be a new addition, adding 20 feet to the height of the existing poles.
Marie Braun, who has lived in Fraser Heights for 23 years, said the proposed antennas would be located 167.5 feet from her property.
“We actually went outside and measured. We’re really upset,” she told the Now-Leader. “We raised our family here, we volunteered, and irrespective of whether you believe the electromagnetic waves damage your health or not, they’re going to be a very hideous eyesore – and there’s two of them.
“It’s going to project into the sky because there are no large trees or buildings to mask their appearance. It’s going to tower above the height of our house. If it was only three or four feet tall, and installed onto a hydro pole like some are, it wouldn’t be as visible.”
Her other issue with the poles centre on her home’s value.
Braun said she and her husband are eyeing a move to Victoria, and recently had a realtor out to assess the property.
“He said this is going to devalue your property by at least five per cent, and cut your buyer pool in half because people are concerned about health risks, or just that they’re ugly. I don’t think this is fair.”
Braun said she’s sent her concerns to city council, as well as the agent for the project.
“I don’t think anybody wants these in their backyard. A lot of people are opposed,” she said. “The only councillor that responded to my emails was Steven Pettigrew. Of all the councillors, I like him the best because he tries to save the parks and the trees.”
In its public consultation documents, Rogers says the antennas are needed to improve its services in Surrey and this location would “achieve the necessary coverage objectives for our network and improve services to the surrounding community.”
The company describes their proposal as “two light pole replacements with taller light poles inclusive of wireless equipment on the top of the pole with the existing light fixture attached at the same height.”
Rogers says there are no existing antenna support structures in the nearby area, and that this location was selected after considering an “in-depth survey” of the area, engineering data and customer comments on poor service.
Because the proposal is in the road allowance, the application doesn’t need to be considered by city council.
The City of Surrey launched a pilot project in 2012 for the installation of wireless communications infrastructure on street lights and utility poles. The policies created at the time remain in effect today.
The 2012 city report highlights a variety of advantages to the initiative, including the city acting as landlord for street light pole installations; a reduction in the needed number of larger communications towers; better wireless coverage; as well as providing “incremental new revenue” to the city.
The report notes staff will evaluate the suitability of proposed locations, “based on potential visual impact, other aesthetic concerns and its significance from a cellular coverage perspective.”
According to the report, the evaluation will need to take into account a variety of factors, including the need to minimize impacts on view corridors, that they not be located directly in front of a window or the frontage of a residence, and that there be preference given for those located on arterial and collector roads.
Scott Neuman, the acting general manager of engineering in Surrey, said the city has received “numerous inquiries” with respect to this proposal.
“We’re working with Rogers to have them reconsider their proposal,” Neuman said.
Earlier this year, it was decided that a cell tower that was proposed for Crescent Beach – which was met with opposition from residents who raised health concerns relating to electromagnetic fields – would not be built in that neighbourhood.
“After hearing the communities feedback through correspondence sent to us and at the Crescent Beach Homeowners Association meeting on March 6, Freedom Mobile has decided not to proceed with the proposed streetlight telecommunications facility at this location in Crescent Beach,” Cypress Land Services representative James Shaw wrote in an email to Pixie Hobby, who was one of the residents opposed to the cell tower.
“Freedom Mobile will look at alternative locations over the next little while and investigate other options that were identified to help determine feasibility.”
At the time, South Surrey resident Carl Katz said the electromagnetic energy he anticipated to be emitted from the once-proposed cell tower, near 12189 Beecher St., not only harms wildlife, but could have an impact on human health.
-With files from Aaron Hinks