Debate Continues over Cell Tower Location | Wireless Tower Reporting

Cell Tower - What’s The Real Issue?

By Rod Newton

Note: This is an op-ed written by Rod Newton. He and his wife Brooks are the owners of Hidden Springs Wellness Center in Ashland.

My wife Brooks and I recently had our rather quiet lives explode with publicity surrounding our opposition to a proposed cell tower installation near the Hidden Springs Wellness Center, which we built ten years ago and work in with 11 other health practitioners and 3 employees. We thought it might help clear up some confusion to write briefly about what we think the real issue here is.

It’s not cell phones. I have a cell phone; almost everybody has a cell phone these days. The issue isn't cell towers. They’re everywhere, including throughout Ashland. We need cell towers to have cell phones. The issue isn’t reduced signal strength, as ATT has acknowledged an alternative site that is the same distance from the center of their search ring, and where an existing Verizon tower seems to get good coverage. And the issue isn't adverse health effects, because federal law won’t let the city use health effects as a criteria for cell tower location.

We don’t oppose another cell tower going up in Ashland, just where AT&T wants to put it. Ashland city law mandates co-locating with an existing cell tower as the preferred option for new installations, “if it is feasible.” AT&T checked out an existing site at the south freeway interchange, where Verizon already has a cell tower. They wrote that it was “a reasonable location according to the search map.” But they chose another site, the Ashland Cinema site, as their preferred site.

As required by the Planning Department, they held a community meeting to get public input. The Daily Tidings article quoted what Katie Yasui told them at that meeting: “There are wellness centers right there and that’s going to put them out of business.” Others at that meeting protested this location, for business and a host of other reasons. But AT&T continued with their application for the cinema site, saying that it would be more efficient and potentially serve more customers. They gave two reasons for this: a “slight increase in ground elevation” and a shorter run of coaxial cable.

But these assertions have since been refuted by Vitaly Geyman, an electronics engineer who installed cell towers all across Australia before he came to Ashland. He believes that AT&T can get as good a signal strength at the south freeway location. Apparently Verizon agrees with Vitaly, as that is where they chose to install their cell tower.

We think there might be another reason AT&T prefers the Cinema site: the other site would cost them more money. The impact on our community businesses frequented by people who perceive that there is a health risk, seems to mean nothing to AT&T. The input from our community seems to mean nothing to them. So, a nation-wide battle has come to Ashland: Corporate profit versus human values.

We’d like AT&T to co-locate at the existing Verizon location or find another one with community input that is less disruptive to our community.

Friends have asked us what they can do. First, here is what not to do: Please do not protest, picket, or disrupt the businesses in the Ashland Shopping Center. They are as innocent in this as we are. We want to support their businesses. Even the owner of the shopping center is innocent. I’m sure he must have had no idea of the affect this could have on our businesses when he signed the lease. AT&T continued with this site proposal, even after they knew it would destroy local businesses. You can protest AT&T, but please, do not protest at any local businesses!

If you would like to express your views before the open record period ends on May 19, send an email to April at [email protected]. Or, mail a letter to The Planning Commission, 20 E. Main St., or drop it off to 51 Winburn in the Plaza sharing your views.

Thanks for all of the heartwarming community support we, and the others affected by this, have received from so many people. We hope this brief explanation clears up any confusion and lets the community know why we are opposed to this cell tower being built at the cinema.

Rod and Brooks Newton own the Hidden Springs Wellness Center. They can be reached at [email protected] and will send out a Fact Sheet upon request.

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Comment by Karen Jeffery on May 20, 2010 at 8:37am
Sure, Will. If we had coverage from further away (alt site) than the current tower, which doesn't cover us, that would be fine. How would they do that? And if they can do that, why don't they just beef up the signals from the Ashland Springs Hotel?

As to dangers. Research shows cell phones are far more 'dangerous' than cell towers. I guess none of the anti group have cell phones. And if not, how can they possibly understand the lifelines they serve as for students?

Naomi, Re housing values: realtors in town tell me that having good cell reception adds to a home's value...and that not having definitely decreases same.

Maybe together we can figure out a way to deliver safe, reliable cell coverage to all Ashland's citizens, including its students and professors. Heck maybe the students and profs could fix lots of things and increase jobs and safety...if we had cell reception.
Comment by Lily Turner on May 18, 2010 at 10:22pm
It might behoove all of the citizens of Ashland to procure a copy of "Full Signal",
a documentary produced by Talal Jabari, and watch it at the cinema proposed cell-tower site
before conclusively making up your minds. See the website:
Mr. Jabari amassed an impressive collection of experts for this film. Once you see it, you will
be able to espouse an educated opinion of the matter of cell-towers, and if you now believe
that this type of equipment is innocuous, you may find yourself surprised.
Comment by will wilkinson on May 18, 2010 at 7:27pm
Responding to Karen's concerns, what's ironic is that AT&T can give you similar increased coverage from the other location. We are not saying "No" to better coverage for you, we are just asking that they do it from the best location for all concerned. If you could get the extra bars with a location elsewhere, wouldn't you vote for that?
Comment by Karen Jeffery on May 18, 2010 at 1:48pm
Will your customers really desert you out of their unfounded fears?
And if that’s the big fear, why would you wish it on someone else?
Or wish AT&T less profit? Or their customers less coverage. What’s wrong with ‘more efficient and potentially serve more customers’?
As a student at SOU, this tower offers hope for safety, connection, business, and lots of other benefits to over 6,000 students and professors on campus. Not to mention thousands or residents (and businesses) in So. Ashland.
Comment by Jessalynn Jones on May 18, 2010 at 11:10am
Thank you for finally offering a logical, practical view on this issue. I agree, AT&T should listen to our community and build their tower near the Verizon site.

Jessalynn Jones

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