May 11, 2010
CALL TO ORDER
Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers,
Commissioners Present: Staff Present: Larry Blake Michael Dawkins Dave Dotterrer Pam Marsh *Melanie Mindlin Mike Morris John Rinaldi, Jr. Bill Molnar, Community Development Director Derek Severson, Associate Planner Richard Appicello, City Attorney April Lucas, Administrative Assistant Absent Members: Council Liaison: Eric Navickas, absent
John Rinaldi, Jr.
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Derek Severson, Associate Planner
Richard Appicello, City Attorney
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant
Eric Navickas, absent
*Commissioner Miller did not participate in the first two agenda items.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar noted the City Council is scheduled to hold a Special Meeting on May 26th for the Croman Mill District Plan. Commissioner Marsh announced the vacancy on the Commission and encouraged interested citizens to submit an application to the Mayor’s Office.
A. Approval of Minutes
1. April 13, 2010 Planning Commission Minutes
2. April 27, 2010 Planning Commission Minutes
Commissioners Dawkins/Dotterrer m/s to approve the Consent Agenda. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 7-0.
No one came forward to speak.
TYPE II PUBLIC HEARINGS
A. PLANNING ACTION: #2009-00726
APPLICANT: McDonald, Lynn & Bill
DESCRIPTION: Appeal by Bonnie Brodersen of the Staff Advisor’s decision to approve a Physical and Environmental Constraints Review Permit for the property located at
Declaration of Ex Parte Contact
Commissioner Marsh noted that Commissioner Miller has asked to be excused since she was absent from last month’s hearing.
No ex parte contact was reported by any of the commissioners.
Deliberations & Decision
Commissioners Dotterrer/Blake m/s to approve Planning Action #2009-00726 and deny the appeal, finding it has no merit, and direct staff to bring back findings consistent with approval. Roll Call Vote: Commissioners Morris, Blake, Dawkins, Dotterrer, Mindlin, Rinaldi and Marsh, YES. Motion passed 7-0.
B. PLANNING ACTIONS: #2009-01244
APPLICANT: Goodman Networks, Inc. for AT&T Wireless, LLC
DESCRIPTION: A request for Site Review approval and a Conditional Use Permit to install rooftop wireless communications facilities on the existing Ashland Street Cinema building located at
Commissioner Marsh read aloud the public hearing procedures for land use hearings.
Declaration of Ex Parte Contact
Commissioners Morris, Rinaldi, Blake, Dotterrer, Dawkins and Marsh reported site visits. Commissioner Mindlin stated she had a drive by site visit and also received a phone call from Sarah Breckenridge. Mindlin stated the substance of this call is captured in Ms. Breckenridge’s written comments which are included in the record.
No ex parte contact was reported by any of the commissioners.
Associate Planner Derek Severson presented the staff report for this application. He reviewed the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 which regulates how cities can address wireless communication facilities, and stated some of the key points of this Act include: 1) cities cannot discriminate among providers, 2) cities cannot pass laws or take actions that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless service, 3) there is no regulating of wireless facilities based on environmental concerns about radio frequency emissions if the facility will operate within FCC standards, 4) cities must act on requests to site wireless facilities within a reasonable amount of time, and 5) cities must issue zoning denials or approvals in writing, supported by substantial evidence and findings contained in the written record. As a result of this Act, Mr. Severson stated the City of
Mr. Severson reviewed the elements of the application. He stated the site is located at
Mr. Severson explained as part of the application, the applicants are requesting an administrative variance in order to not install the required landscaping around the proposed accessory building. He stated the application states the 10 ft. landscape buffer around exterior would extend into the existing driveway and impair fire access. He added the application asserts that the accessory structure, by mimicking the existing structure, is architecturally integrated into the building and does not need screening.
Mr. Severson clarified Federal Law prohibits denials based on radiation or radio frequency emissions. He stated in reviewing the application staff feels it does comply with the City’s standards and are recommending approval with the conditions listed in the staff report.
Gary Spanovich/Applicant’s Representative/Stated he has participated in over 40 land use approvals, buildings and design reviews for telecommunication facilities and stated the Telecommunications Act is key tonight. Mr. Spanovich explained the Act states that as long as the antennas and equipment meet the FCC regulations for radio emissions, there are no health effects. He stated in this application all of the FCC regulations are followed and all of the equipment meets those standards. He stated this Act empowered the use of cell phones in the
Mr. Spanovich clarified they initially looked at a number of locations, but needed to find a location in the heart of their problem area as well as a willing landlord. He stated the proposed site is their only option and stated collocating at the Ashland Springs Hotel or the Holiday Inn Express would not solve their coverage problems.
Commissioner Marsh listed the written testimony that has been submitted into the record and whether the individuals were for or against this action.
Preston Moser/1501 Siskiyou Blvd, Medford/Stated he is a broadcast radio and TV engineer and voiced his support for the application. Mr. Moser stated cell phones emit far more radiation than the cell tower would and stated the further away the cell tower is the more radiation the phones put out. He stated the cell phone itself is the major source of radiation and the tower is very minimal because of its distance from the persons being exposed.
Rod Newton/1196 Timberline Terrace/Stated he and his wife own the Hidden Springs Wellness Center and requested the Commission deny this application based on the following three points: 1) approval of this conditional use permit would lower the livability of the area due to the economic impact, 2) the applicant’s materials indicate there is an acceptable alternative location at the Holiday Inn Express, and 3) the location will impact the north and south views, and future towers could be collocated there which will further expand the visual impacts. Mr. Newton stated at Hidden Springs they rent space to 13 holistic healthcare practitioners and none of them have indicated they would be willing to work close to a microwave tower. He stated this not about health impacts, this is about the impacts this proposal will have on his business. Mr. Newton stated his is not opposed to cell towers but wants them sited at a location that will have the least impact on the community. Mr. Newton concluded his testimony and requested the record for this action be left open for seven days.
Aaron Brian/307 N. Main St/Stated he has reviewed the application, the City’s code, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and stated he is opposed to this proposal. Mr. Brian stated this application does not comply with the City’s own standards for siting cellular facilities and stated the applicant’s materials indicate there is another reasonable location at the Holiday Inn Express. He stated under the City’s municipal code, if there is a feasible collocation site this is the end of the story. He stated in this situation there is an option for collocation and does not understand why the applicants have focused their efforts away from the Holiday Inn site which already has wireless facilities on it. Mr. Brian stated the proposed tower would have visual and aesthetics impacts, and noted the City’s code states that if this is approved future collocation efforts would be allowed on top of the cinema. He stated there is also an issue of space for the ground equipment and commented on the need for good access for fire trucks. Mr. Brian voiced his opposition to this proposal and stated the Ashland Municipal Code supports the denial of this application.
Alan Sasha Lithman/669 Park St/Stated giving more weight to the rights of the electromagnetic fields than the citizens of this town is not appropriate. Mr. Lithman stated the precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those who advocate taking the action. He stated this principle allows policy makers to make discretionary decisions in situations where there is evidence of potential harm in the absence of complete scientific proof. He stated such potential harm is sufficient grounds for preventive measures, safeguards and protections, and these protections can only be relaxed if further scientific findings provide sound trustworthy evidence that no harm will result. Mr. Lithman stated a town such as
Naomi Marie/2305-C Ashland St #248/Stated two of the tenants of the building have made it clear they are either opposed or do not want to be associated with this proposal and believes this speaks to the potential economic impacts for the tenants and existing businesses. Ms. Marie stated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was pushed through and there is so much information on both sides of the health impacts issue, we don’t really know for sure what the real affects are. She recommended they have some foresight about what they are exposing themselves to and stated the Commission should pay attention when people are speaking out about their concerns. Ms. Marie stated she is very concerned about the proliferation on the cinema’s rooftop and stated this proposal would definitely reduce the views.
Skip Andrews/103 Manzanita St/Acknowledged that the federal statute prohibits them from using claims about radiation as the basis for their decision, but stated what they can take into consideration is the fact that there are so many practitioners that will go out of business if this proposal is approved. Mr. Andrews questioned when a conditional use permit has ever been allowed when it results in the closing of an established business in the area. He stated Hidden Springs is an internationally known wellness center and people from all over the world hold seminars there, and the construction of the proposed wireless facilities would have a real effect on that area.
Suzanne Sky/1605 Siskiyou Blvd/Stated she is the owner of Ashland Acupuncture which is located just behind the cinema. Ms. Sky explained the back of her clinic overlooks the back of the cinema building and stated this proposal would severely impact the views from her location. She stated there are six other holistic practitioners in her office and the perceived health impacts associated with these antennas would have a serious negative impact on her business and the livability of the area. Ms. Sky stated the AT&T representative assured the concerned neighbors that there was an alternative site AT&T would be looking at and she was very disappointed to hear this proposal is going forward. She asked that the Commission deny the application and request they find an alternate site for their antennas.
Judi Johnston/1025 Pinecrest Terrace/Stated she is a health care practitioner and stated they are in a difficult position. She stated she personally supports the cell tower, regardless of where they put it, because she has no cell phone coverage at her house. She stated she is dependent on her cell phone for her business and also would be in a tough spot if she had an emergency. Ms. Johnston stated she hopes either the proposed site or an alternate site is approved so that the cell phone coverage can be improved. Stated she is in support of a tower because businesses need it to thrive, and our tourists and visitors also need coverage.
Paul Pollard/308 Crowson Rd/Stated he is an AT&T client, has poor coverage, and would like this to change. Mr. Pollard stated these antennas are raised to send out signals in a way that reaches the coverage area; the signals do not just run off the building and filter down into the parking lot. He stated there is a lack of understanding with how this system works and agreed with the first speaker that there is greater damage caused by holding a cell phone to your ear. He stated it is not as detrimental as some say and stated he would like to see a tower installed somewhere in
Kimberly Hall/745 Iowa St/Stated she is a massage therapist at
Robin Rose/625 Lit Way/Stated she is a family physician and provided some information on possible effects of cell towers. She stated between 10-25 out of 100 people will be affected if they are 300 meters from one of these towers. Ms. Rose listed some of the symptoms she has researched and questioned how this proposal would affect the more fragile individuals in our community. Ms. Rose stated even if they are not sure of the impacts, they do not know for sure yet whether these are dangerous and does not want to take that risk.
Michael Maichezak/894 Blackberry/Stated the energy emitting hazards of cell towers has been widely documented and it would be in the best interest of the Planning Commission, the community, and the nearby tenants and residents to deny this application. Mr. Maichezak stated he uses Verizon and has great coverage and asked if AT&T could place their antennas at the Verizon site instead. He also questioned if other carriers would add antennas to the cinema building if this application was approved and questioned the loading potential for that roof.
Will Wilkinson/2940 Old Highway 99/Stated he is a fitness director at Hidden Springs and noted the impressive number of citizens who have appeared tonight to show their opposition to this proposal. Mr. Wilkinson stated the applicant’s representative stated the Telecommunications Act empowered the use of cell phones, but he has heard nothing from the representative about the welfare of the people. Mr. Wilkinson noted the International Association of Firefighters have expressed their opposition to towers located on fire stations until a study on exposure to low intensity RF/MW radiation is conducted and it is proven that such conditions are not hazardous. Mr. Wilkinson disputed the staff findings which indicate this action would not have a negative impact on the livability of the area and stated there would be aesthetic damages and severe business losses. He recommended the Commission deny this application or at the very least delay this action in order to have more time to study this issue.
Lisa Long/1003 Oneida Circle/Stated she is very impressed with the consciousness of this town and disagreed that these towers pose no health effects. Ms. Long citied an article titled The Radiation Poisoning of America and stated she researched where cell towers were located in Ashland before she moved here and would not have allowed her daughter to move to Ashland to go to SOU if she had know a tower would be going in at this location.
John Kalb/580 Elizabeth Ave/Voiced his opposition to the AT&T proposal because of the possibility of collocation and stated this should be given preference over building new towers. Mr. Kalb stated the Planning Commission is not obliged to give AT&T the exact site they want and urged the Commission to reject this proposal and require AT&T to provide more information on the other potential site.
Joanne Lescher/347 High St/Stated whether or not cell towers are harmful is not the primary issue, the issue is that they are perceived to be harmful by many citizens. Ms. Lescher stated she cannot continue to practice in this area if the tower is built. She noted there are 24 health practitioners in this area and asked the Commission to consider the economic impact and loss of services to
David Schieber/586 Glenwood Dr/Stated that health effects cannot be considered according to the federal government, but stated this proposal would add height to the cinema building and this added height would block mountain views from both north and south directions, particularly for those closest to the building. Mr. Schieber stated AT&T has indicated they would be willing to allow others to collocate at this location and questioned if the roof structure is adequate to accommodate this. He stated there is another location that AT&T could use and it seems logical to add their antennas where this is already accommodated for rather than adding a new facility. Mr. Schieber stated they simply do not know what the health effects of long term expose are, and stated the only reasonable course is to conduct a study at the highest possible merit.
Alissa Lukara/248 Meadow Dr/Shared her opinion as a consumer and stated due to the perceived impacts she would no longer visit this shopping center if this application is approved. Ms. Lukara stated she often books workshops in
Vitaly Geyman/1172 N. Main St/Stated he is a telecommunications engineer and has installed 600 towers across
Elissa Walsh/106 Fairview, Talent/Stated she works at Hidden Springs and noted this facility is an oasis and sanctuary for many individuals. Ms. Walsh stated she is certain this tower would result in a huge loss and stated not only does she not want to lose her job, she does not want the community to lose this wonderful center. She stated she is strongly opposed to this application.
Brooks Newton/1196 Timberline Terrace/Stated she is the owner of Hidden Springs along with her husband, which is located less than 100 yards from the proposed site. Ms. Newton stated she cannot believe corporate profits are being put above human values and shared her sadness at the thought of losing this complex. Ms. Newton invited the AT&T representative to come and visit their facility and talk about the effects this proposal would have on their community center and work this out together.
Deborah Gordon/276 Orange Ave/Noted she and Susanne Sky are the health practitioners closest to the proposed tower location. Ms. Gordon stated half of the view from her office is of the cinema and the other half is of the mountains beyond it. She noted the law states the health effects are outside of the Commission’s purview, but stated it is not outside the purview of her patients. Ms. Gordon stated she would have to move her business if the cell tower goes in and hopes AT&T can come up with a different solution.
Bonnie Nedrow/635 Lit Way/Commented on the types of clients who come to visit her and stated she would not be able to continue her practice at this location if the cell tower goes in. She stated her clients perceive the cell tower to be a problem, regardless of whether it is proven or not. Ms. Nedrow stated approval of this action would create a huge burden for the medical practitioners in the area.
Guy Nutter/1037 Pinecrest Terrace/Stated he owns the property at
Dennis Cooper/1182 Timberline Terrace/Stated he owns the building immediately behind the
Emily Folmar/1644 Ashland St/Stated she is speaking on behalf of Coming Attractions Theater. Ms. Folmar stated they have received numerous calls and emails from citizens and customers concerned about this proposal and clarified that they are not the building owners and this is not their application. Ms. Folmar shared her concerns regarding this proposal and stated if approved, they will lose a significant amount of business. In addition, she stated they have not seen the engineering specifications and are concerned about load bearing issues and potential water damage. She added anything that might damage the roof could cause great damage to their equipment.
Marvin Ratner/1125 Village Green Dr/Stated he is opposed to the cell tower and stated it would be detrimental to the community and the lifestyle here. Mr. Ratner stated this would cause the
Steven Maryanoff/654 Oak St/Voiced his opposition to the cell tower and suggested they consider making
Ari Frires/92 Dewey St/Voiced his opposition to the cell tower. Mr. Frires stated he does not know the impacts of these microwaves, and until he does he does not want to be exposed to it.
Cate Hartzell/892 Garden Way/Asked that the Commission deny this application based on the financial impacts on the surrounding businesses. Ms. Hartzell stated this location serves as her primary shopping center and stated the cell tower would have a negative impact on her consumer activities. She stated the Telecommunications Act did not take away a community’s right to regulate as best they can their expose to microwave frequencies or other environmental hazards. Ms. Hartzell commented on consumer habits and stated they need to come together as a community and revisit the criteria for the placement of wireless facilities in a well publicized process where everyone can become better informed about these issues.
Jeff Golden/925 Oak St/Stated 1) the Ashland Municipal Code mandates that new wireless facilities be collocated with existing facilities if doing so would reasonably meet the need, and 2) in the applicant’s correspondence, they state there is another wireless site that would reasonably meet their needs. Mr. Golden stated if both these statements are proven accurate this leads to a very clear decision. He stated regardless of the radiation perception, the only lawful decision would be to deny the application.
Tej Steiner/610 Ashland St/Stated he is against this proposal and commented that there is something very special about the
Rebuttal by the Applicant
Gary Spanovich/Clarified this is not a cell tower, but rather 5 antennas that will be hidden in the façade. He stated they are fairly small at 4-6 inches wide and 4-6 feet in height. Mr. Spanovich noted the engineering drawings are included in the packet materials and stated the structural studies that were completed show that everything is to code. He stated their engineer did look at the collocation possibility and determined that it would not be possible to collocate at the Holiday Inn Express. Mr. Spanovich cited the Telecommunications Act and stated they believe their submittal is complete. He also stated that they do not feel the need to keep the record open and do not need rebuttal time.
Commissioner Marsh noted the request made by Rod Newton to leave the record open for 7 days and explained written testimony received during this period will become part of the written record and circulated to the Planning Commission.
City Attorney Richard Appicello noted the Commission will need to make two motions: 1) to keep the record open until the end of business day on May 19, 2010, and 2) to continue their deliberations to the June 8, 2010 Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Appicello stated he heard the applicant state that he does not want to file final written argument and asked if this was accurate. Mr. Spanovich confirmed that they do not want an additional seven days to submit final written argument and stated they do not feel they need to submit anything else.
Commissioner Marsh closed the public hearing at 9:17 p.m.
Questions for Staff
Mr. Severson provided additional information on the collocation issue. He stated the City’s ordinance requires applicants to look at collocation, but does not require it. He also clarified that according to the applicant’s submittal, the antennas at the cinema location would be 25% higher than what would be possible at the Holiday Inn site, and the length of the coaxial cable to the Holiday Inn would be much greater than the run to the cinema and would result in a greater loss of signal.
Request was made for staff to address conditional use permit criterion C(7) and the economic concerns related to this. Comment was made questioning if the Fire Department has approved the placement of the ground equipment in terms of emergency access issues. If was also questioned if information was going to be provided on how the Holiday Inn site and the proposed site compare. Mr. Severson clarified the applicant could choose to submit this information within the next 7 days while the record is open.
Commissioners Dotterrer/Miller m/s to leave the record open until 4:30 p.m. on May 19, 2010. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 8-0.
Commissioners Rinaldi/Dotterrer m/s to continue this item to the June 8, 2010 Planning Commission meeting. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed 8-0.
Meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
April Lucas, Administrative Assistant