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PKOLS-Mt. Doug tower will be parked near old one

"This is a win-win. Saanich is getting their tower and we saved the park.” - Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.

Mark Brennae
May 30, 2024
City Hall
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

PKOLS-Mt. Doug tower will be parked near old one

"This is a win-win. Saanich is getting their tower and we saved the park.” - Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.

Mark Brennae
May 30, 2024
Rendering courtesy Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.
Rendering courtesy Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.
City Hall
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

PKOLS-Mt. Doug tower will be parked near old one

"This is a win-win. Saanich is getting their tower and we saved the park.” - Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.

Mark Brennae
May 30, 2024
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PKOLS-Mt. Doug tower will be parked near old one
Rendering courtesy Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy.

A replacement emergency and cellphone tower will be built adjacent to the current one at PKOLS-Mt. Doug—not in the parking lot at its summit, Saanich council has decided.

“This is a win-win,” said Darrel Wick, president of PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy, which has been working to protect and preserve the natural environment of PKOLS since the late 1980s. 

“Saanich is getting their tower and we saved the park.”

The current tower has aged out and needs replacing to comply with federal regulatory standards that come into play next year.

Council reversed course on recommendations

The council saw proposals spanning seven sites for the 30-40-metre tower, which is used by cellphone companies and CREST, the region’s emergency communications network. Staff recommended it be placed in the parking lot to minimize any environmental damage. But in an unusual move Monday, the council voted unanimously to reject that proposal and to go with “Option A: A new tower adjacent to [the] existing tower.”

“It is unusual,” Coun. Susan Brice tells Capital Daily. “In this case, I think the component of the decision-making from my perspective, was something that an elected person can put a value on that is perhaps not as easy for the administrator to put a value on, and to my way of thinking, it's just simply aesthetics.”

Translation: frontline politicians, not staff, hear the public’s concerns, and many of those concerns were about the view that Brice called “spiritual.”

“To take that walk up and to imagine a large steel tower there ruins it, and so our thinking was if there is another location, that's where it has to go, make it work.”

Coun. Colin Plant said he doesn’t take any pleasure in disagreeing with staff’s recommendations, but he didn’t “want to be a part of a council that potentially ruins an iconic view.”

Plant acknowledged there would be some environmental damage installing the new tower and extracting the old one, but he hoped that damage would be minimal. He also hoped a replacement tower could be installed within six to nine months.

“In weighing this, I haven’t had a single person who has written to council, who has spoken to council saying they want it [in the parking lot],” Plant told the council.

“This gigantic tower in the parking lot was going to completely destroy the atmosphere of this natural park and that area,” the Conservancy’s Wick tells Capital Daily, adding it would eliminate parking spots, too.

Wick complemented the council for its decision to override the recommendations. “All the design and all that wasn't staff, it was external consultants and they designed their dream tower, neglecting the park and its location,” he said.

It was the least disruptive location, says mayor

“While placing the new tower in this location comes with additional cost and complexity (among the seven location options), it creates the least disruption to the park experience for people visiting the park and using its trail,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock tells Capital Daily.

Murdock said the cost to remove the current tower and install the new one would come from a reserve fund generated by the lease revenue from the telecommunications providers who lease tower space. 

“There is no cost to taxpayers for the replacement project,” he said.

Keep it as much as possible, out of sight

“Our thinking is, that is the best way to camouflage [the new tower], you know, amongst the trees there,” said Brice. 

Wick agreed the trees will hide the new tower as they have the old one and said a gap in the trees could accommodate a crane to install the new tower, which should minimize the number of arbutus and Garry Oak trees that may need to be cut down. 

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PKOLS-Mt. Doug tower will be parked near old one
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