A new crop of cell towers may change the face and the views of West Vancouver, depending on the policy council adopts later this year.
The District of West Vancouver discussed modifying its 15-yearold policy on cell towers at a July 23 council meeting.
The debate comes as West Vancouver weighs a slew of new proposals for telecommunications arrays, including a plan from Rogers for 10 three-metre cell towers along the Upper Levels highway between the Capilano River and Horseshoe Bay.
The district is also considering Wind Mobile's plan to use two wood hydro poles near Westport Road.
Aware of the controversy that previous installations have garnered from the community, both in terms of aesthetics and perceived health impacts, the municipality has decided to review its policies around the towers before considering the proposed structures.
The new policy will aim to balance resident concerns with the increase in wireless traffic, according to a report written by community planners Andrew Browne and Geri Boyle.
"Freestanding towers can't realistically be made to completely fade into the background," the report said. "Can the community find support for infrastructure that appears sculptural, playful, or artful?"
A new policy is critical to preventing a standstill over cell tower projects, which could lead to a loss of district autonomy, according to staff.
The Ministry of Transportation would need local government approval before a cell tower is built on the Upper Levels highway; however, in the event of an impasse, Industry Canada has the authority to allow for cell towers over the objections of a local government.
"We don't want to get into a position where, frankly, we're saying no to every proposal," Boyle said.
The district's report puts an emphasis on upgrading existing sites before seeking approval for new sites that would serve the same area.
As a general guideline, towers below the height of 15 metres do not require public approval.
The policy is expected to be revised and submitted to council for adoption at the end of September.
The proposal received opposition from Coun. Bill Soprovich, who said council has already been clear about not wanting "artsy, 100-foot towers" along the highway.
As a steward for the community, Soprovich said his job is to give the public every opportunity to reject the proposal.
The Wind Mobile proposal is directly below some residents who are disturbed by the project, according to Soprovich.
The district's approach to regulation should incorporate the fast-changing nature of technology, according to Coun. Michael Lewis.
"It seems to me the industry of technology evolves very quickly. This (report) strikes me as a little bit backward, or certainly a stationary look as opposed to a forward look," he said.
Director of planning, lands and permits Bob Sokol reminded council of the outdated policy being replaced.
"We are dealing with a policy that is from 1997," he said. "I think we will all agree the industry has revolutionized since 1997."
The policy should include concrete recommendations on the distance between cell towers and residential roads or homes, according to Coun. Craig Cameron.
Coun. Mary-Ann Booth asked if district staff could tell council anything about the frequency strength of the towers.
"We do not have the expertise to deal with the strength issue, so we haven't factored that in," Boyle said.
The staff report praises Rogers for its willingness to adapt to the community.
"While much work remains to bring these designs to fruition, Rogers should be commended for the willingness to invest the time and resources into exploring new design concepts for a corridor-based approach," the report said.