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Users of popular Saanich park fear proposed tower will ruin its ‘aesthetics’

PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy objects to tower location

The communications tower at the popular PKOLS (Mount Douglas) park is due for a replacement, but where it should go has the District of Saanich and a park advocacy group at odds.

Darrell Wick, founder of the PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy has concerns about the location of the 40-metre tower because he believes the aesthetics of the natural park are “paramount.”

He’s worried the tower might be constructed in the Churchill Drive summit parking lot.

“When you’re walking up the road, the view is going to be combated by these monitor towers,” Wick told Black Press Media. “The tower won’t be over to the side of the parking lot, but it’ll be pretty well right in the centre.”

A report to council received third reading Oct. 30 authorizing chief administrative officer Brent Reems to approve or change the orders within the budget on the request for proposal (RFP) for the construction of the replacement tower.

READ MORE: Saanich council clings to control over PKOLS comms tower replacement

Wick is concerned the report could prevent the park from sustaining its natural beauty if the tower is built on the parking lot.

“In this natural park, the aesthetics of the park is a very important aspect, and we’re talking about the tower whose life expectancy is 50 years. So it’s important to get this right,” said Wick.

Wick is also curious about how much communication the PKOLS Conservancy will receive from Saanich.

“Our society was not informed of the tower replacement until several months after vendors were invited to view potential sites and submit bids. There has been no consultation,” said Wick.

Constructing the tower in the parking lot would be the affordable option, rather than building the tower next to the old tower, Reems noted at the Oct. 30 council meeting.

“Through the RFP process and hearing through proponents, it soon became, I guess known to everyone working on the file, that to replace in the current location would require significant environmental damage and tree removal and cost to put the replacement in the current location,” said Reems. “So discussions have started about relocating the tower. There is not a whole lot of area that you could put a 40-metre-tall tower without having a significant ecological footprint or impact so discussions have zeroed in on the parking lot location adjacent to the current building.”

Responding to the location debate, the District of Saanich told Black Press Media in a statement that “the specific location of the replacement tower has not yet been finalized. In addition to logistical, installation and future maintenance safety, and cost considerations, a key component of selecting the location of the replacement tower will be minimizing the environmental impacts that would be necessary for construction such as blasting, tree removal, and importation of non-native material. The RFP award is for the design and build of the tower, and additional technical work is required through the design phase to determine the best location. Saanich staff will be reporting to council with the results of this technical work and the recommended location prior to the start of construction.”

“Saanich has met with the PKOLS Conservancy on multiple occasions to share information about the project,” the district said, “and will be providing updated information to the community on the factors considered for determining location.”

Saanich has limited time to figure out the construction plans for the tower as it is a crucial part of CREST operations, the regional emergency communications infrastructure. Installing the foundation, monopole and site clean-up is expected to take around 90 days, according to the district.

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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