Verizon’s Rehoboth Boardwalk Antennas Commissioner Authorised
Following threats of litigation by a Verizon attorney during a special meeting on January 22nd, Rehoboth Beach officials decided to move forward with the communications company’s proposed design for its 16 radio antennas on the boardwalk.
To meet the growing demand, Verizon filed an application with the city in August to install more than a dozen 5G antennas on the boardwalk. The design of the antennas was unknown to the public until it was part of an October application to the state department of watershed management where the antennas were placed seaward of the state’s building line. The design includes an antenna ring under the ball of light on top of the mast, which prompted two city committees and members of the public to ask the commissioners to reevaluate the design due to concerns about shadows on the boardwalk at night. Mayor Stan Mills scheduled the special meeting soon after.
During the meeting, Verizon attorney Megan Riley said the company had worked on the design in good faith for many months. However, the federal government demanded that a decision on an application be made within 60 days of submission, unless the application is significantly incomplete.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re being prevented from serving our customers, and the time frame has become a very big deal for us,” said Riley.
Verizon representative Bonnie Metz said the company is keen to move ahead with the installation and Rehoboth is one of the first cities in the state to use 5G technology. She said the city approval window had long expired.
Metz said there is a 16 week turnaround time for making the bars. At this point, Verizon needs to push the design, she said.
Public Works Director Kevin Williams said city officials were working under the guidance to get the poles as close as possible to the light poles currently on the boardwalk. The poles are the same height and an inch of width at the top and bottom, he said, adding the company is now calling for 16 antennas instead of the original 18.
You’re damn close, Williams said of the design.
The city recently installed a number of surveillance cameras on the boardwalk, and Williams said the effects of the cameras’ shadow were negligible.
Williams said other wireless carriers have expressed their willingness to use the same light pole design once one has been formally agreed. He said the idea of collocation doesn’t mean two different cellular operators on the same pole. This means that a provider will install an antenna on an existing power pole.
In addition to the potential safety issue, Mayor Stan Mills said he would have liked the antennas to be on the western edge of the boardwalk. However, he said the ship has sailed and would require a full reset.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said the boardwalk antenna design was an important decision, but she also had no appetite for litigation. She doesn’t want the city to say no just to say yes.
Commissioner Richard Byrne is the chair of the city’s environmental committee, who submitted a letter of support for lighting dark skies on the boardwalk ahead of the meeting. He said litigation is a loss to everyone.
Commissioner Patrick Gossett suggested that the commissioners change the code to require Dark Skies technology. Let’s prepare for the 17th pole, he said.
Michael Strange, owner and planning committee member of Rehoboth Beach, regularly criticized the masts installed on site and encouraged the city to work the company towards a better design.
The current proposal is pretty good, but not as good as it could be, he said.
The commissioners have not officially voted to move the proposed draft forward. Rather, no one made a move to stop moving forward.
The timeframe for the Boardwalk antennas to be installed is currently unknown, but Verizon would like them to be installed in the summer of 2021.