The Ashland City Council will consider strengthening city laws to make cell phone companies install cell phone antennae where antennae already exist when feasible, but the companies may not be required to get a third-party review if they say locating with existing antennae is not feasible.

The Ashland City Council will consider strengthening city laws to make cellphone companies install cellphone antennae where antennae already exist when feasible, but the companies may not be required to get a third-party review if they say locating with existing antennae is not feasible.

The City Council will consider those issues during a study session in early 2012.

In 2010, AT&T wanted to install a dozen cellphone antennae behind a facade at Ashland Street Cinema. The company said it would be too difficult to install the antennae where antennae already existed, such as at the Holiday Inn Express near Exit 14.

The City Council rejected AT&T request for the antennae installation, saying the company hadn't done enough to show that co-location wasn't feasible.

Since then, city officials have been grappling with how to make the city's old laws on cell tower installation reflect that 2010 decision.

Residents concerned about the proliferation of cell phone antennae suggested companies be required to pay for a third-party review of their data if they said co-location wasn't feasible.

At a Tuesday night meeting, Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he wanted to take baby steps on updating the city's cell tower laws and tackle the issue of strengthening co-location standards first.

A council majority voted to direct staff to prepare draft ordinance changes reflecting the council's 2010 decision that emphasized co-location. That decision didn't include a requirement for a third party review.

During the study session in 2012, councilors could still bring up the third-party review idea or other proposals.

Councilor Carol Voisin, for example, said she is interested in setting standards for minimum distances between cell towers and homes.

Through months of back-and-forth on the cell antennae issue, Councilor Dennis Slattery said concerned residents have been very polite and respectful.

"It's a real model for citizen activity and I just want to say thanks," he said.

Some residents are concerned that cell towers emit harmful radiation, but federal law prohibits cities from considering possible health effects when siting cell phone antennae.

Other residents don't believe the antennae are harmful, but worry about possible negative impacts on local businesses and property values if customers and real estate buyers believe antennae cause harm.

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