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City might give signal on sites for cell towers

The Ashland City Council will tackle subjects ranging from cellphone tower placement in town to authorizing further lead testing at the Ashland Gun Club during a packed agenda on Tuesday night.

The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Under proposed new city standards, if a cellphone company wants to install antennae in an area where another company doesn't already have the equipment, it would have to hire a third party to analyze its reasons for not locating in an area where antennae already exist.

Controversy over cellphone antennae placement erupted in 2010, when AT&T wanted to install antennae behind a facade on top of the Ashland Street Cinema.

The City Council shot down AT&T's request, saying the telecommunications company didn't present enough information to show that it wasn't feasible to install the antennae in spots around town that already host cellphone antennae, such as the Holiday Inn Express near Exit 14.

Many residents had been concerned about radiation risk from the antennae, but federal law prohibits jurisdictions from considering that risk when deciding where antennae can be located.

According to the American Cancer Society, there is "very little evidence" that radiation from cellphone antennae can cause cancer and other health problems. People receive much more radiation exposure from using cellphones than from living or working near cellphone towers, the society said.

In other business Tuesday night, the City Council will consider plans that would make three intersections more pedestrian-friendly. The intersections are at Tolman Creek Road and Ashland Street, North Mountain Avenue and East Main Street, and Walker Avenue and Ashland Street.

Council members also will decide whether to pay JBR Environmental Consultants Inc. $49,080 to test for lead contamination from ammunition at the Ashland Gun Club. The firm has a White City Branch.

The city of Ashland previously paid a different California firm $64,000 for wildlife, lead and habitat tests at the gun club, but the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said that firm failed to test in areas where the most ammunition falls.

In another agenda item, the council is scheduled to choose a council member to serve as a liaison to the Mt. Ashland Association board of directors.

The City Council and the association have reached an agreement for the city to give up its permit for the Mount Ashland ski area in return for added safeguards if a ski area expansion moves forward.

The expansion is blocked by an injunction, but the U.S. Forest Service plans to return to court later this fall or winter to ask a judge to lift that injunction.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=14423.

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