Rehoboth, contractor at odds over wireless ordinance changes

City wants to use ‘best available technology’ wording for new antennas; CTC says not needed
February 7, 2022

After months of work revising the city’s wireless facilities ordinance, Rehoboth Beach officials and the contractor they hired to work with them through the revision are at odds on the language that should be included.

Specifically, city officials would like to see wording in the revised ordinance that requires telecommunication companies to use the best available technology when installing new wireless antennas. CTC, the city’s contractor, has recommended against that wording unless the city wants to hire and train someone to stay current on technology advances.

During their December meeting, commissioners had been prepared to set a public hearing and possible vote for their January meeting. However, that was postponed after it was realized wording related to the use of available best technology had been left out. The group decided to hold off on setting the hearing date until they could consult with CTC about the verbiage.

The commissioners revisited the issue during their Jan. 10 workshop. Julie Elias, the CTC staffer who has been working with the city, issued a memo Jan. 5 saying best available technology is a principle that exists primarily in environmental policy to determine the most efficient and cost-effective methods to minimize pollution. CTC was unable to find an example of best available technology being used in relation to wireless installations or the wireless industry, said Elias.

Despite the recommendation, commissioners said they wanted to continue to pursue inclusion of the language in question.

In response, during the January workshop, Mayor Stan Mills said if the rest of the commissioners felt that strongly about including that language, the city should probably hire a different consultant.

Many of the proposed ordinance changes include language determining where a carrier may propose to install a wireless facility, whether the proposed facility can be deemed to be too obtrusive and visually unappealing, and how a proposed facility fits in with the city’s existing design and aesthetics.

City commissioners aren’t the only ones who think the ordinance should include wording related to best available technology.

The Beach and Boardwalk Committee discussed the topic during a Jan. 25 meeting. Generally, committee members all agreed there should be wording related to using best available technology. However, there were some concerns raised about whether the city could enforce the mandate with the current staff and if enforcement would be fiscally responsible.

Commissioners are expected to continue discussing the issue during a Monday, Feb. 7 workshop.

Verizon antennas being installed on Rehoboth Avenue

Verizon is in the process of installing four wireless antennas along the Rehoboth Avenue median. The new antennas are expected to look like the five AT&T installed on Rehoboth Avenue in 2019.

In addition to the new Rehoboth Avenue antennas, Verizon has also requested the installation of a dozen antennas on the Boardwalk. However, those applications have not been officially submitted by the company.

Roughly two years ago, Verizon approached the city about installing 18 antennas along the Boardwalk by replacing the existing light poles with ones that have antennas built in. The company came close to replicating the exact style of the current poles, but not close enough to gain the favor of commissioners, who did not like the idea of the antennas being on the eastern edge of the Boardwalk.

The company came back to the city in July with a proposal for fewer antennas, a total of 12, on the western edge of the Boardwalk, but they would be twice as tall because the antennas would be installed on Delmarva Power utility poles or on new utility poles when Delmarva Power’s equipment doesn’t allow for colocation.

In a Jan. 28 email, Lynne Coan, city spokesperson, said there is no update on the status of the Boardwalk antennas.

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