Companies that want to install cell phone transmission facilities in Ashland must locate the facilities where others already exist, or pay a fee for a third party review if they say co-locating is not feasible.

Companies that want to install cell phone transmission facilities in Ashland must locate the facilities where others already exist, or pay a fee for a third party review if they say co-locating is not feasible.

The Ashland City Council voted Tuesday night to strengthen the town's restrictions on cell phone companies and other businesses that communicate information wirelessly.

Some residents fear that cell phone facilities emit waves that could cause health problems. But others say Ashland needs more cell phone signal transmitter facilities because of spotty coverage in parts of town.

If a wireless communications company does not want to co-locate, it must pay an estimated $3,500 to $5,000 or more for a third-party review of its application. The City Council will adopt the exact fees at a future meeting.

Local residents who favored added restrictions on telecommunications companies said city staff members had listened respectfully to their concerns and then crafted new rules for the council's consideration on Tuesday night.

City Councilor Carol Voisin, who voted for the new rules, said, "It's an example of how the citizens were able to engage staff and staff likewise was able to engage the citizens to come up with a good ordinance."

City Councilor Russ Silbiger, who voted against the added rules, said he favored the third party review but couldn't agree with other aspects of the restrictions.

He said some aspects of the new rules ignore developments in 21st century communications.

"We're doing our best to ignore the new realities," Silbiger said.

Some residents familiar with telecommunications technology have said the wave of the future is to install smaller-scale transmissions facilities in scattered sites throughout communities. Requiring co-location in most cases does not fit that trend, they have said.

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