Controversial 5G poles installed on the dunes in Dewey Beach three years ago remain, despite a 2021 lawsuit settlement, and an agreement between the town and state that will reimburse Verizon to relocate poles on Clayton, Rodney, Cullen, Collins and St. Louis streets.
A Verizon subcontractor began installing new 5G poles on Clayton, Rodney and Cullen streets in April to replace the previously installed structures on the dunes.
However, Town Manager Bill Zolper said at the Aug. 18 commissioners meeting, the town is still waiting for Delmarva Power & Light to turn power on at the new poles so the ones on the dunes can be taken down.
The town is still waiting for DPL to find a viable location for a pole on Collins Street, Zolper said, noting the pole on St. Louis Street will not be moved because DPL doesn’t have another location where power can be run.
Money granted by the state to pay for pole relocation expires in September 2024, and an extension can be requested if necessary, Zolper said.
In September 2021, Dewey entered an agreement with the state that provides $375,000 for pole relocation. Funds must be spent within three years to reimburse Verizon’s relocation expenses, and for CTC to review Verizon’s applications for the five poles.
Representatives from DPL, Verizon and their subcontractor were invited to Zoom in to the meeting, Zolper said, but they all declined.
On Aug. 31, Zolper said by text that he emailed Verizon and DPL on Aug. 30 to ask for an update and had not yet received a response. On Sept. 7, Zolper said by text that he just learned that Verizon cut down part of the 5G pole on Cullen Street for an unknown reason.
“They can’t tell me when they will take it out or move the other two,” he said.
The Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Investment Act of 2017 allowed wireless providers to install 5G poles on state rights of way.
The Delaware Department of Transportation, which had sole permitting authority at the time, granted permits to Verizon to install 13 poles and to Tilson to install five poles on state rights of way in Dewey. The five Verizon poles in question are the only ones to have been erected.
After significant complaints were expressed by residents and town officials alike regarding the placement and aesthetics of the installed poles, town commissioners passed an ordinance to govern installation and impose design standards for small cell facilities.
A new agreement with the state gave permitting authority to the town, which hired consultant CTC to assist with legal advice and review permit applications for installations.
A June 2021 lawsuit filed by Dewey residents Alex Pires, Diane Cooley and John Snow seeking to remove the poles and prevent Verizon from installing any more was settled in November 2021, when Verizon agreed to move the poles.
The town’s correspondence and documented history with Verizon is available at townofdeweybeach.com/WirelessFacilitiesArchive.