Flags fly above the offices of the city of Ashland. [Mail Tribune/file photo]
Ashland City Council listened Monday to residents concerned about an ordinance being considered by council that would guide where and how 5G cell towers are built.
Kelly Marcotulli, a longtime supporter of cell tower restrictions, told council during a Monday study session that the city must do more to protect itself and its electronically sensitive residents through a strict ordinance. which would limit where, how high and how many wireless installations could be built.
“Local governments have to exercise their jurisdiction, you already have the power, the federal government has already given you the power,” said Odette Wilkins, a telecommunications attorney from New York who addressed the council via live stream. during a meeting.
Ashland officials said their hands were tied by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Wilkins said, but that’s only what the telecommunications companies would have municipalities believe. As long as a city builds its ordinance appropriately before companies come in and build the towers, the city can stay in control — especially in Oregon, she said, where the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit confirmed aesthetics as a matter of great importance.
This is the ultimate leverage point for Ashland, she said. The city can determine if towers or facilities violate the aesthetics of the city and relegate them to commercial districts or at least away from downtown and residential areas.
Many peer-reviewed studies have said radiation from cellphone towers can make people sick, Wilkins said.
Wilkins criticized an ordinance proposed to council by McGeary, which was obtained from the League of Oregon Cities as a pre-packaged response to cell towers for Oregon municipalities.
“This ordinance has so many holes you can drive a truck through them. If I represented one of my multinational clients and produced something like this, I would be fired,” she said.
Marcotulli, Oregon’s founding member for Safer Technology, and others have asked the city to hire a lawyer, Andrew Campanelli, known for writing cellphone orders and suing telecommunications companies on behalf of municipalities. His services would cost the city $8,500, Marcotulli said.
After Wilkins completed her testimony and counselors questioned her, McGeary introduced another expert witness, Professor William Johnson, an engineering consultant and professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, who spoke to counsel remotely. .
“It’s really, really easy to come up with misinformation and claim it to be true,” Johnson said.
While it is beneficial for a city to control the location of cellphone towers, it cannot exercise the level of control described by Wilkins without violating the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Johnson said.
“The problem is that every household now has two to three phones, and everyone wants to use their cell phone at the same time. Then there just isn’t enough bandwidth (from existing towers) to support that,” he said.
The law says municipalities can’t create a service gap, and while the law was drafted before the broadcast, Johnson explained, if a city tries to restrict towers or exclude 5G, they can quickly create enough of a gap to be judged by the courts. constitute a shortcoming.
The city council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance proposed by the League of Oregon Cities at its regular meeting on Tuesday. But advisers agreed on Monday to postpone action on the ordinance until further research and discussion.
Contact Morgan Rothborne, Mail Tribune reporter, at [email protected] or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.