Ashlanders decry 5G cell tower proposed next to Southern Oregon University

Ashland City Councilors and staff met via Zoom April 19, but are expected to gather in person at their next meeting, but the public will only be able to watch via Zoom.
April 23, 2022

Trapdoor Bar & Grill, formerly The Vinyl Club, gets green light on liquor license

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

More than two dozen people signed up to speak in public comment at a virtual Ashland City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, April 19, several of whom aired concerns about a new 5G tower proposed near Southern Oregon University.

Several area residents called for city councilors to revise and strengthen city telecommunication ordinances, essentially asking that the city change its ordinances to ban the structures being built near schools and seniors. One participant said these types of requests have been made to councilors since 2019.

“Our cries must get louder so you will see the seriousness of the issue,” said one participant in public comment.  

“We want a learning session or study session … it’s time for us to have that,” said another public comment participant.” 

Councilor Tonya Graham requested that a study session on the topic be planned for June.

City Manager Joe Lessard said it would be a better fit for a meeting in early September, due to budget items in May and June.

“I will work with staff to see if we can try to move it up,” Lessard said.

How much local agencies can regulate cell towers is constrained by the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, according to a City of Ashland staff report from last fall, which says “cities cannon pass laws or take actions that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless service,” and “Cities cannot regulate wireless facilities base on environmental concerns about radio frequency emissions if the facility will operate within FCC standards.”

In other city business:

  • Ashland Tree Commission Chair Chris John also announced the city’s tree of the year, cork oak tree at 233 Fourth St. in Ashland.
  • Councilors approved a recommendation for approval to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) for a liquor license for Trapdoor Bar & Grill, 130 Will Dodge Way, formerly known as The Vinyl Club, what one councilor referred to as, “the club that must not be named.” 

Fire Chief Ralph Sartain and Police Chief Tighe O’Meara addressed the license and shared favorable recommendations for approving the license for what has been classified as a high-end cocktail bar and lounge. 

The establishment, which will be open till 2 a.m., will be staffed with a professional mixologist and a sous chef. The space has been vacant for more than two years.

“We are not the Vinyl Club in any form,” said Curtis Hall, one of the owners of the new establishment. “I can assure you things will be different.”

  • Councilor Stephen Jensen voted to suspend one of their own conduct of meeting rules prior to the start of the meeting to ensure they could meet virtually Tuesday evening, since they previously had planned to meet in a hybrid format.

“Next meeting, no computers on Zoom – I’m looking forward to that,” Jensen said.

The next meeting is planned for councilors and city staff to be in person, with the option for the public to view the meeting virtually. Meeting notices have not yet been posted for May, but the council typically conducts study sessions on the first and third Mondays of each month, and business meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

Email Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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