By Stefanie Donahue
Verizon Wireless customers in south Semiahmoo should expect to see more bars of reception on their smartphones thanks to the Blaine Planning Commission, which approved a permit for the company to install a new wireless facility during a regular meeting last week.
The April 13 vote granted Verizon Wireless a conditional use permit to install a new wireless facility on a property owned by the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District in south Semiahmoo. The company plans to install new equipment on an existing water tank and in other locations on the property, located on Bayvue Road, just west of Treevue Road.
“Right now, there’s a gap with wireless coverage within this area in Semiahmoo and increasing the coverage will most likely benefit the surrounding communities,” said Blaine community planner Maddie Ottley to commissioners.
Verizon Wireless plans to fix six panel antennas, six radio units and three surge protection devices to the more than 25-foot-tall water tank on the property. On the ground, they’ll install four radio cabinets and an emergency generator. The site will be surrounded by a wooden fence and noise barrier, according to a staff report.
The installation will allow the company to serve areas near Birch Point Road and Semiahmoo Parkway, where several residents have reported poor wireless connectivity. While the new equipment will mainly benefit Verizon customers, it will improve all phone users’ ability to make 911 calls.
“Robust wireless service is an important factor in community safety, and is even more vital as people expect to do more on their phones every day,” read the Verizon Wireless February 2017 permit application. “The 2015 estimate from the FCC is that 70 percent of all emergency calls are made from cell phones, and emergency calls can be made on any network regardless of carrier or service plan.”
Only two residential properties are located near the site, which is largely surrounded by vacant land; the property can only be accessed through a county road and 300-foot private drive.