Ashland approves cell antennas despite protests

ASHLAND — The Planning Commission on Tuesday night approved AT&T's request to put 12 cell antennas on the Ashland Street Cinemas roof, but owners of the neighboring Hidden Springs Wellness Center said they will appeal the decision to the City Council.

The commission voted 5-1 to approve the antennas, to the dismay of most of the 50 audience members in the council chambers.

"We'll appeal it, of course," said Rod Newton, who owns the wellness center with his wife, Brooks. "Maybe we can't do this through the legal system, maybe we'll do it through protest."

Newton said he didn't agree with the commission's interpretation of the law and that, in addition to appealing the decision, he is considering organizing a boycott against AT&T.

Commissioner Debbie Miller voted against the proposal because she didn't feel AT&T made a compelling case about why it had to locate the antennas on the cinema, instead of at the Holiday Inn Express, where other cell companies' antennas are located, she said.

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

Vice Chairman Michael Dawkins and Commissioner Melanie Mindlin left in the middle of the meeting because they said they felt bound by the law to vote in favor of the proposal, but they could not ethically do so.

Several commissioners said they were concerned the cell antennas would negatively affect business in the shopping center.

The commission received more than 300 letters from people opposed to the antennas, and many wrote that they would no longer frequent businesses in the area if the antennas were installed because they were concerned about the health effects of radiation from the antennas.

Appicello advised the commissioners that federal law prohibits cities from using potential health risks as a criterion in determining where antennas can be placed.

Several commissioners said they must vote based on current laws but stressed the laws needed to be changed.

"I guess in reality we are kind of a society of laws," said Commissioner Mike Morris. "I think the option is to try to get the laws changed."

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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