West Vancouver district was unaware of cellular antennas being added to building as no work permit was obtained from city hall.
An eagle-eyed Ambleside senior is being credited with alerting the District of West Vancouver to the “unauthorized” construction of cell phone antennas on top of a high-rise on Bellevue Avenue.
Brian Merth lives in an apartment building adjacent to the West Van Library on Marine Drive that overlooks the surrounding Ambleside area. Over the years, he has noticed construction workers adding components to an existing bundle of cell antennas on the penthouse elevator shaft at Hollyburn Plaza at 1775 Bellevue Ave.
“It’s looking rather busy at the moment,” said Merth, in an interview last Friday (Oct. 7).
When contacted by The Outlook, Bob Sokol, West Van director of planning, said the district was unaware that a set of cellular antennas was being added to Hollyburn Plaza as no work permit was obtained from city hall.
“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” said Sokol. “Thank you to whoever brought this to our attention.”
A stop work order has now been issued to the wireless company.
Hollyburn communications director Peter Louwe confirmed Hollyburn Plaza has Rogers Communications cell antennas on it.
“With high-rises, it is quite common for [wireless communications companies] to approach us,” said Louwe.
Early last week, Merth noticed a construction crane blocking traffic on Bellevue Avenue for a good part of the day and says he believes that it was being used to add component parts to the cellular antenna structure.
“So somebody must have been aware of it,” said Merth.
Sokol believes the crane was most likely unrelated to the Hollyburn Plaza construction. He said at a minimum there would need to be a building permit in place for this type of cellular antenna installation.
“Our current policy is [the company] would need to come to us and depending on the type of antenna there would need to be a public consultation process,” said Sokol.
When asked how the original antennas were placed on the high-rise, Sokol said they had probably gone in years ago. He also suggested that a number of cellular antennas may have been placed on taller buildings in West Van under the district’s radar.
Rogers Communications spokesperson Marina Guy said the company’s cell antennas have been located on Hollyburn Plaza since 1996 after a consultation process with the DWV and Industry Canada.
“We are upgrading the existing facility equipment at Hollyburn Plaza so we can continue to meet the evolving needs of our customers by providing a more reliable mobile service,” said Guy. “For this upgrade we acquired the necessary electrical permit from the District of West Vancouver.”
She adds that Rogers is reaching out to the DWV to determine why the stop work order was issued.
Guy also notes that it is a “co-build” site meaning that other wireless carriers use the same antennas.
“Once we have more information, we will decide on next steps,” said Guy.
Proposed Rogers cell phone towers have sparked outcry from two North Shore communities in the past year.
In February a group of City of North Vancouver residents in Tempe Heights were concerned when Rogers announced they were looking at placing a 41-metre monopole in their neighbourhood. A 313-signature petition was submitted to the wireless company.
Rogers responded by saying they have heard the concerns and will work with CNV to discuss alternative locations.
And in West Van, in June, Rogers held an open house to highlight five possible locations for a new cell phone tower. Originally, Rogers wanted to build a 29.5-metre tower on provincial land on a grassy median at the westbound Taylor Way off-ramp from Highway 1.
“We don’t have any updates and we are still deciding our next step,” Guy said, when asked where Rogers is at with the two cell tower proposals.
Back in West Van, Merth is disheartened by the cell antennas that are in plain view from Marine Drive.
“I told the city you are changing the aesthetics of Ambleside,” he said.