Ashland approval of cell antennas appealed

ASHLAND — The owner of a wellness center is appealing an Ashland Planning Commission decision to allow construction of a dozen AT&T cell phone antennas on the rooftop of the Ashland Street Cinemas.

Attorney Chris Hearn filed the appeal just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, the deadline, on behalf of Roderick Newton, owner of the Hidden Springs Wellness Center.

Newton has been a vocal opponent of the proposed antennas, arguing they would negatively affect his business, which is in the same shopping center as the theater.

The commission voted 5-1 in June to approve AT&T's request for antenna construction. Several commissioners stressed they felt the city lacked the legal authority to deny the request.

A city law "encourages" cell companies to co-locate their antennas "when possible," but according to City Attorney Richard Appicello, the law could be difficult to enforce because its language is unclear.

"We are hopeful that there is room for the City Council to deny the application based on the legality of the case," Newton said.

"The city has to resolve this issue before the middle of September," said Newton, referring to a 120-day deadline for response to the application.

More than 300 letters from Ashland residents have been sent to the Planning Commission as public testimony since the construction of the tower was proposed.

"AT&T's goal in this is to provide the best wireless service that we can," said Kerry Hibbs a spokesman for AT&T. "We work closely with the city to follow the rules and do things right."

AT&T was unable to give any specifics for future plans for the antennas.

The issue will be discussed at the City Council meeting scheduled for Sept. 7.

Johanna Thompson is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-482-3456, ext. 225.

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