Cell phone antenna plan irks residents

At least a dozen residents are furious about AT&T's plans to put five antennas on the roof of the Ashland Street Cinemas, the movie theater in south Ashland.

At a community meeting the cell phone company held Thursday night at First Presbyterian Church, the residents said they're concerned that radiation from the antennas could affect their health and even cause cancer.

The AT&T representative, Kevin Provance, said the antennas would meet Federal Communications Commission radiation regulations and would be encased in a translucent material that would help buffer the emissions. He said the government has received no quantitative data showing that radiation from properly placed antennas causes cancer or is otherwise harmful.

AT&T and six other cell phone companies already have antennas on the top of the Ashland Springs Hotel, said Provance, a principal planner for Portland's Goodman Networks, which has a contract with AT&T.

The company wants to put more antennas in south Ashland because its cell phone and wireless internet coverage is spotty there, he said. The antennas will also allow AT&T to support more smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone, which has an exclusive contract with the company.

"This is generated based on complaints of lack of service for AT&T customers," Provance said.

A dozen people who own businesses or live near the Cinema attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the antennas.

"I wouldn't go to a cinema that had these fields going on around my body," said Anne Coyle, who co-owns Adhara Wellness Center, near the Cinema.

"We are all energy and the energy in our cells is not compatible with the energy in cell phones so it is not good for us to be bathed in these emissions," she said.

Katie Yasui, who also owns a business near the theater, said she was concerned the antennas would create a stigma in the area.

"There are wellness centers right there and that's going to put them out of business: A wellness center with an antenna," she said.

The AT&T plan calls for increasing the height of the Cinema building's pointed façade by 18 feet and placing the 6-foot antennas inside the new façade.

While most residents at the meeting said they were concerned about the radiation — not the aesthetics of the building — Kathleen Magnuson said she didn't like the new design because it obscured mountain views.

"This blocks the mountains. It diminishes the view. There's no question," she said.

Thursday's meeting was just a preliminary step, Provance said.

The company has negotiated a deal with the owner of the Ashland Cinema building, and would pay the owner rent each month for providing the space for the antennas. However, the plans will still need to be approved by the Ashland Planning Commission and City Council, a process that could take months, he said.

After an hour of listening to unanimous complaints about the antennas, Provance said the company may consider placing the devices somewhere else in south Ashland.

"We may look for another location," he said. "We have to take a look at all the possibilities."

The antennas have about 1.5 mile radius, so they can't be placed in a rural Ashland area, he said.

If the company decides to move ahead with the plans for the Cinema, it will hold another community meeting because not all interested neighbors were able to attend Thursday's meeting, possibly due to a problem with the city's notification process, Provance said.

All those who own property within a 300 foot radius from the antennas were required to be notified of the meeting, but Provance said he was willing to expand that radius to encompass more people.

If there is another meeting, Provance said he would bring a report that would calculate the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation the five antennas would give off and show that the devices comply with government standards.

But the residents at the meeting said they didn't trust the government's regulations or the studies done on the effects of radiation from antennas.

"Just the fact that there are these studies is a concern," Yasui said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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