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Proposed SaskTel cell tower facing local pushback

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A new City of Regina proposal to transfer land bordering the McKell Wascana Conservation Park to SaskTel is facing pushback from local residents – Jun 25, 2022

A new City of Regina proposal to transfer land bordering a nature reserve to Sasktel is facing pushback from local residents.

The Wascana View neighbourhood in Regina sits behind the McKell Wascana Conservation Park, a large nature reserve with original prairie landscape.

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Everything was undisturbed, until a recent city proposal emerged to transfer land by the reserve to SaskTel for a new 5G cell tower.

The proposal has left Wascana View residents, spanning four communities in the neighbourhood, concerned about potential land damage to the conservation area. 172 residents banded together to sign and deliver a petition to the city seeking the cancellation of the proposal.

“It’s a nature refuge, so placing a tower here totally defeats that purpose,” said Jack Huntington, president of the Wascana Pointe Estates Condo Association. “Protecting this particular refuge and wetland habitat is important, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.”

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Huntington says the park is universally loved by the residents and the backlash is warranted.

“It is used every single day, whether it be someone riding a bike or walking the trails, you see many families here with children or pets enjoying the surrounding…any compromise around that would come with very strong opposition.”

Huntington says when the proposal first came about, residents held a general meeting to put the petition together. He says a group of about 12 residents went door-to-door to seek feedback regarding the proposal and the need to protect the reserve.

“It was overwhelming in terms of support. Every single door we knocked on and people answered, they signed the petition. They were in total support of what we were trying to protect here.”

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The proposed site borders the conservation park and is currently zoned as as a floodway by the city, setting restrictions on new construction in the area. However, the city says that cell towers are an exception.

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“Cell towers are permitted use in all zones within our zoning bylaw, so therefore it would be considered a permitted use,” said Shauna Bzdel, director of Land, Real Estate and Facilities.

Huntington says the exception feels unfair.

“Zoning bylaws are put into place for a very specific purpose,” Huntington said. “It makes me feel very disappointed in the process, it makes me also feel very disappointed that SaskTel and the city have had a very difficult time engaging in what we believe is a meaningful process around all of that.”

Residents also worry about potential health risks and impacts on property value.

“Many of these people bought the property with the idea that they would have the natural park to view and they see that view now being destroyed. These folks also pay some of the highest property taxes in the city and that doesn’t appear to be recognized.”

The city, however, says that the location chosen is the least impactful spot in the area.

“Administration worked with SaskTel to find a location that would be the least impactful,” Bzdel said. “There is currently a sewage pump station, as well as a parks subdepot, so there are other utility uses, within that site.”

When SaskTel inquired about purchasing the land, Regina’s executive committee requested a public consultation be completed, which includes addressing concerns of residents.

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In a statement to Global News, SaskTel explained the importance of new cell towers.

“As part of the public consultation process, SaskTel will respond to any relevant feedback it receives about the proposed towers,” the company said in an emailed statement. “While SaskTel recognizes there may be a wide array of opinions regarding the construction of new cell towers in general, it is important to understand that new cell towers are required to ensure that a wireless network has the capacity and coverage necessary to continue serving customers in a community.”

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While the cell provider is currently going through public consultation, Huntington says that process has been mostly one-sided. He says residents submitted feedback by a June 6th deadline, but SaskTel and their consultants, Scott Land & Lease, have yet to respond.

“It’s my understanding from talking to Scott Land & Lease that they would be providing a response and there would be some dialogue, but to date there has been no reach out,” Huntington said.

Ideally, Huntington hopes the resident pushback will prompt positive action from SaskTel.

“I would like to see them reconsider their position and move the cell tower to a more appropriate location that would not effect the conservation park and to also address the needs of resident health and the property values…There’s lots of open land behind me, particularly to the south and west that wouldn’t infringe on the conservation area and would still serve their needs.”

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