After moving to Dewey Beach in April 2020, Dan Dionisio fell in love with the community and its people. So when he saw town officials and residents struggling to fight the placement of 5G poles along the ocean dunes, he wanted to help.
“I don’t like bullies, and that’s what these wireless companies have done to this town,” Dionisio said. “This is a coastal town. The resources and assets of coastal towns are precious, and there are definitely different ways they [wireless carriers] could have built out the network.”
In 2017, Gov. John Carney authorized wireless providers to install 5G poles on state rights of way. In Dewey, only Chesapeake and Carolina streets are controlled by the town, leaving officials with little authority to deny permits to wireless facilities.
Dionisio said he was prompted to form the group Save Dewey Beach after reading Commissioner Paul Bauer’s May 14 letter to the editor asking for the community's help against the pole installation.
A Goldman Sachs executive, Dionisio said he used his years of experience in volunteerism and nonprofit fundraising to create a five-member foundation with a goal of raising awareness about the encroachment of big wireless corporations on Dewey’s beaches, wildlife and ocean.
A protest calling for the relocation of the poles away from the beaches is set for 9:30 to 11 a.m., Monday, July 5, at the beach end of Rodney Avenue, Dionisio said. Organizers are also working on a way to allow participation virtually, Dionisio said.
The group is not protesting 5G, Dionisio said; rather, the protest aims to remind wireless facilities about corporate responsibility and doing the right thing. In other coastal towns, Dionisio said, poles have been installed along the highway median, rather than the dunes.
“Corporate responsibility can engineer a better solution,” Dionisio said. “Environmentally and socially sensitive companies need to exercise that when they have the ability to do so, and do the right thing when no one is looking. In this case, there was a certain lack of integrity in what they did here.”
Wireless carriers are experts at installing 5G poles and managing the emotional response of towns and hoping it dies down, Dionisio said.
“But that’s not going to happen,” he said. “We’re very committed; [we] want to raise awareness of the facts and what the wireless carriers did in Dewey Beach, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
In just a few weeks since the formation of Save Dewey Beach, Dionisio said he has been contacted by six governor’s offices and 16 towns nationwide about the issue. The foundation’s website gets about 2,500 hits a day, he said, and 135,000 people have engaged with the group’s Facebook posts with almost 1,000 stating they will attend or are interested in the protest.
“Our efforts won’t end with the protest,” Dionisio said. “We will be engaged in activism until those poles are removed.”
Dewey Beach Town Manager Bill Zolper said he recently denied five pole placement applications from wireless carriers and approved Save Dewey Beach’s permit application to hold the protest.
Wireless carriers could have placed the poles in less-obstructive locations, Zolper said. Carriers would have never placed poles along tourist locations such as the Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg, he said, and they should have never been placed in such visible spots as the resort town’s beach-access areas.