Dewey residents, officials continue fight against 5G poles

Commissioners pass wireless facilities ordinance, design standards
March 5, 2021

From calls for civil disobedience to comparisons with the Baltimore Colts leaving town in the dead of night, Dewey Beach residents and officials united in opposition to the installation of 5G poles along the town’s coastline during a March 2 public hearing on an ordinance to regulate wireless facilities.

Mayor Dale Cooke said the town has no desire for the poles, but they are mandated by state and federal regulations. The town has contacted the governor, and state and local officials to fight the installation, he said.

However, most streets in Dewey are controlled by the state, which is unlike any other town in Delaware, Cooke said. When the town learned about the installations through Verizon, and not the state, Cooke said, the town immediately called the state to put a stop to it.

Delaware Department of Transportation said it not only has the authority to require towns to allow the poles, but also the obligation to allow them because of federal regulations, he said.

“We’ve done almost everything we can do besides chain ourselves to the poles,” Cooke said. “I asked what would happen if I did that, and someone said you wouldn’t stop it, you’d just get your butt locked up. That might be the next position I take.”

Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes agreed, saying regulations have empowered carriers, and the town has no recourse but to accept what DelDOT has done.

Town Counsel Fred Townsend said commissioners are limited to the extent they can regulate the facilities, but they have drafted an ordinance and design standards to monitor installations as much as possible.

Some residents and town commissioners questioned whether carriers were installing the cheapest possible equipment, and others said installing poles on Route 1 would benefit more people.

Planning Commissioner Rick Judge said he has lived full time on Dewey’s ocean block for 45 years.

“I have more than adequate Wi-Fi internet coverage in my home, on my street and on the beach,” Judge said. “I don't see any need for further coverage as a necessity for our town, or for the networks to get our service.”

Resident Allen Winton said installing poles at the beach egress was a cockamamie idea he will fight tooth and nail, screaming to the bitter end.

“I am absolutely floored by the fact that this can be snuck in by people without any kind of public forum, vote or referendum, so people can have the convenience of downloading funny cat videos on the beach,” Winton said. “Frankly, who cares about 5G on the beach?”

Joanne Fabrizio, who said she was speaking on behalf of The Perch on Dagsworthy Avenue, said she felt betrayed and disgusted by the state of Delaware, and the town’s beautiful view will be ruined by big tech.

Resident Ben Proctor said he was infuriated by Verizon’s move to install poles in the middle of winter, which reminded him of the Baltimore Colts’ midnight flight to Indianapolis in 1984.

Resident Jeffrey Smith said not a single beach town from Pensacola to Massachusetts has poles visible from the water. He blamed Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, who represent Dewey Beach and co-sponsored the bill that authorized wireless providers to install poles on state rights of way.

“These should be called Pete and Ernie’s poles, and I say, Pete and Ernie, tear down these poles,” Smith said. “Let’s move them to Route 1 and put them where every other town is putting them, because the outrage of this situation will not stop.”

Schwartzkopf and Lopez could not be reached for comment.

Commissioners unanimously passed the ordinance governing the installation of small cell wireless facilities and implementing design standards that set requirements including placement and siting, maximum height and provisions for removal.

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