Guest opinion by Suzanne E. Sky

The majority of testimony given at the recent Ashland Planning Commission meeting focused on the enormous negative economic impact that AT&T's 12-panel antennas proposed for Ashland Cinemas' rooftop would have on businesses located in and around the Ashland Cinemas. There is no doubt that such a location will force a number of businesses to suffer financially, to relocate and to possibly close their doors. Several business owners reported receiving numerous phone calls from locals saying they will no longer frequent their business if cell towers are atop the cinema at Ashland Shopping Center.

It is not appropriate to discuss or debate the presence of or lack of adverse health effects from cell towers or panel antennas such as these. That issue cannot be resolved and is not a fruitful discussion at this point in time. And, due to 1996 federal legislation, health issues cannot be used as a factor to deny installation of antennas such as these.

The simple fact is that, in the mind of the public, cell towers and antennas are synonymous with substantial, tangible health hazards. This perception, which is not unfounded, is the force that drives the economic issue central to our situation as business owners and especially for those of us who are health practitioners in and around the Ashland Shopping Center. Due to this perception, many people will no longer visit businesses or health practitioners close to these antennas. One woman who gave testimony at the Ashland Planning Commission stated this emphatically. This is the core issue: negative economic and community impact.

It is mandated that "granting this conditional use for the wireless facility will not have a negative impact on the livability of the area, but rather enhance it." Given the stated economic impact on the local natural medicine clinics neighboring the cinema, this wireless facility clearly has a negative impact not only on these clinics, their owners, practitioners and their staff, but also on the community that they serve. These clinics serve not only the Ashland community, but have clients and patients who come to Ashland from all over the Rogue Valley, other areas of Oregon, California and even other states and countries.

My business, Ashland Acupuncture, is one of several that will be dramatically effected by the cell antennae because of their location. The long row of back windows at my clinic look directly over the roof of Ashland Cinemas, with views of the sky and Grizzly Peak behind. The "architecturally-integrated panel antennas" would block these beautiful views, which my clients and all of us who work here at the clinic and next door so enjoy. The cinema rooftop is only about 150 feet from my clinic and the next door clinic of Dr. Deborah Gordon. Our new view would be of these panels. For a healing clinic in a beautiful nature setting and ambience, this is not acceptable aesthetically and will economically impact our businesses.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, my clinic has been very happily situated in this natural setting for about 11 years. My business would be dramatically affected by loss of clients who would not come for healing treatments next door to radio emission antennas. This would force me to expend great expense, time and energy to relocate my business. I would not be able to easily duplicate my current ideal location with its beautiful nature setting. The many practitioners who work in my clinic and in the centers and clinics in my area face the same predicament. There are quite a large number of us.

There is another feasible and more appropriate choice for these cell antennas in Ashland, where Verizon towers are already located, that would help provide us with the improved cellular service that we all desire and have become accustomed to in this day and age. AT&T has proceeded with the Ashland Cinemas site despite numerous letters and public input regarding the negative economic and community impact of this location. In my mind, this shows such utter disregard for the community of Ashland in preference for other priorities. Do we want an outside corporation determining the future of our community?

If you are concerned with our community and these vital issues, please let your voices be heard today! The Ashland Planning Commission will vote on this issue June 8. Every person's voice is essential to be heard. Please write or e-mail today. You can send an e-mail to the Planning Commision via lucasa@ashland.or.us. Or, by snail mail to The Planning Commission, 20 E. Main Street. Or, drop off your comment or letter to 51 Winburn in the Plaza.

Let them know that you oppose these proposed cell towers atop the cinema because they will have a huge negative impact on our local businesses and community. Inform them that we'd like AT&T to co-locate with the existing Verizon site or find another site with community input so that a win-win resolution can be found that is favorable to all parties.

Ashland is a wonderful community of warm, caring and conscious people. We know we are all part of the interconnected web of life. Something like this that will distress, damage or destroy not one, but a number of local businesses will impact each one of us personally. Such a loss cannot be and does not need to be sustained by our community. It would be unnecessary suffering. Please let your voice be heard in support of our community and in support of a mutually beneficial location for these antennae.

Suzanne E. Sky is owner of Ashland Acupuncture.