Neighbors to fight plan for cell antennas

The Hidden Springs Wellness Center expects more than 50 supporters to attend Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting to speak out against AT&T's plans to put 12 cell phone antennas on the roof of Ashland Street Cinemas.

The supporters say they're concerned that radiation from the antennas could harm their health and hurt business at the wellness center and shops surrounding the theater at 1644 Ashland St.

"We're alarmed," said Will Wilkinson, a life coach at the center. "We perceive this as a real threat to our health and our livelihood as health practitioners."

The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed antennas at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

At a community meeting AT&T held in July to discuss the antennas, 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 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.

The antennas have an approximately 1.5-mile radius, so they can't be placed in a rural Ashland area, Provance said.

AT&T's plan calls for increasing the height of the Cinema building's pointed façade to 40 feet and placing the antennas inside the new façade.

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, Provance said.

The wellness center has received feedback from dozens of Ashland residents who are concerned about the antennas, since sending out an e-mail alert Thursday, Wilkinson said.

Naomi Marie said she would refuse to take her children to the theater if the antennas are installed on the roof.

"I will not go get cooked with my kids while I see a movie," she wrote in an e-mail message.

The wellness center is circulating a petition against the antennas and plans to present it to the commission Tuesday.

The commission can not use potential health risks as a criterion in determining whether the antennas can be placed on the theater, according to city planners.

"Federal law prohibits cities from using the associated dangers of electronic emissions as a criterion in the sitting of towers," the city's staff report on the project states.

For that reason, the wellness center plans to argue that the antennas would hurt its business and would be aesthetically unsightly, Wilkinson said.

"The health issue is what drives the economics," he said. "If people perceive that there's a health risk from a tower, then that could destroy our livelihoods."

If the antennas are built, the wellness center could close, Wilkinson said.

"It'd be really hypocritical to have a health center pretty close to a tower," he said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

Share This Story