Cell tower proposed near school

Concerned neighbors are voicing opposition to a proposed cell tower that would be located at 185 Mistletoe Road — behind Bellview Elementary School in Ashland.

Velocitel, which is representing AT&T, is holding an informational meeting about the proposal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Ashland library's downstairs Gresham Room, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

AT&T is proposing a 120-foot-tall cell pole about 300 feet behind Bellview's track and field, according to a letter Velocitel sent to neighbors and a map prepared by the city.

The dark green pole would have cell antennae at its top, with room for more and a microwave antenna, according to plans.

The pole would be on a peninsula of land under Jackson County jurisdiction that juts into Ashland's city limits.

In 2010, AT&T failed to win city permission to build cell facilities behind the facade of Ashland Street Cinema in southeast Ashland, where it said cellphone coverage is poor.

Many residents, fearing potential negative health effects from radio frequency waves, had fought that proposal.

Ashland requires cellphone companies to meet various standards, including siting new towers with existing facilities when possible.

Earl Harris, who lives near Bellview, said he is opposed to the new tower and fears it could harm his health and the health of others.

"I think they are trying to skirt Ashland laws by being just outside city limits," Harris said.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said he also has concerns about health impacts from the cell tower and pointed out the battle neighbors fought in 2010.

"What part of 'no' didn't they understand?" he asked.

Velocitel site acquisition specialist Ryan Flanagan said he could not comment on the proposal. AT&T did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

The American Cancer Society has said there is very little evidence to support the idea that cellphone tower emissions can cause cancer or other health problems.

Cell tower radio frequency waves emit relatively low levels of energy compared to other types of radiation, such as ultraviolet light found in sunshine, according to the society.

The Federal Communications Commission, which sets safety limits on cell tower radio frequency emissions, said that exposure on the ground is thousands of times below safety limits.

Federal law bars cities and states from regulating the placement of cell towers based on environmental effects — including human exposure — of radio frequency emissions, as long as the facilities comply with FCC regulations.

Because of that law, Ashlanders were barred from talking about their health concerns when testifying before the City Council against the 2010 proposal. The council rejected AT&T's request, saying the company hadn't done enough to show that co-location of cell facilities wasn't feasible.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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