DEWEY BEACH – One step remains, but it looks like the tiny town of Dewey Beach has won the battle in the war against telecom Goliaths and towering beachfront eyesores.
Settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit filed in June by three Dewey residents, John Snow, Diane Cooley and Alex Pires, against Verizon Wireless, which has agreed to relocated five 5G poles placed on dunes about a year ago. The agreement was finalized by Verizon Nov. 30.
‘It is subject to approval from the town,” said Mr. Pires, an attorney and Dewey Beach businessman.
“We are very pleased that reasonable minds prevailed, and we have mapped out a path forward,” said Dewey Beach Town Commissioner Paul Bauer. “It is great to see 5G providers act responsibly and work with the communities they serve.”
Citing nuisance claims, the class-action lawsuit filed June 21 in Delaware’s Court of Chancery sought a permanent injunction requiring Verizon to take down the five utility poles on the east side of Del. 1 in Dewey.
In response to the class-action suit, Chancery Court Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III issued a temporary restraining order, halting installation of any new 5G utility poles. At that time, Mr. Pires pledged that the lawsuit would continue until demands contained in the class action suit were satisfactorily met.
According to Mr. Pires, Verizon has agreed to move all five poles from the beach area and will relocate them at other locations at varying distances from the beach. Several poles are to be located on existing Delmarva poles.
Existing Version poles on Clayton Street and Collins Avenue will be moved 285 feet and 200 feet, respectively, away from the beach. Poles on Rodney Street, Cullen Street and St. Louis Street will be moved 10 to 15 feet from their current locations.
“At least they are all moving off the beach,” Mr. Pires said. “Once I saw that, my feeling was, ‘Well, it’s not perfect.’ But my original goal was to get them off the beach. I never promised that it would be any specific distance.”
“I’m a practical guy,” said Mr. Pires. “My feeling was they are willing to at least move them off the beach. That’s as good as I can get.”
Barring further agreement by the parties, Verizon shall remove the poles within 90 days from the date of obtaining approvals from Dewey Beach and Delmarva Power.
As part of the agreement, the plaintiffs agree to support Verizon’s application for reimbursement of its expenses for moving the poles.
According to Mr. Bauer, that reimbursement encompasses $375,000 in funding allocated to the town through the state of Delaware’s fiscal year 2022 Bond Bill and Capital Improvements Act – Senate Bill 200.
In the event Verizon does not move the poles in accordance with the agreement, the plaintiffs shall retain all rights.
Additionally, Dewey Beach commissioners on Thursday approved an ordinance that establishes responsible design standards for all small-cell 5G carriers moving forward.
Under town ordinance, wireless facilities shall not be permitted on the beach dunes or east of the beach dunes, on any property used for residential purposes or on pedestrian sidewalks.
The wireless support structure on which antenna facilities are mounted shall not exceed the town’s height restriction of 35 feet unless the wireless company can prove that the 35-foot height is not sufficient for a signal, and in this case shall be 50 feet or less in height including antenna; no more than 10% taller than other adjacent structures in the public right-of-way including antenna; and not extended to a height of more than 50 feet or by more than 10% above its preexisting height as a result of the collocation of new antenna facilities, whichever is lesser.
Preference, when feasibly possible, is that poles be located along Del. 1.
CTC, a consulting firm, assisted Dewey Beach in ordinance modification.
“So, what happens now, any carrier – Version, AT&T, T-Mobile – they need to submit to us a request to put up a 5G pole. It needs to fit our standards. Then it goes to our consultant. They review the request. They (CTC) have helped us along the way to tighten up our ordinances,” said Mr. Bauer. “AT&T I believe is interested in coming to town as well. We are in better shape to manage how things get done. Our goal is to really get colocation on existing poles.”
“Let’s face it, this isn’t the end,” said Mr. Pires. “This is a 5G, and then I’m sure there is going to be, who knows - 6G, 7G, whatever …”