Less than a year after installing five cellphone antennas in Rehoboth Beach, AT&T is preparing to install two more.
During a meeting March 9, City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city has approved the communication company’s application to install an antenna at the Boardwalk end of Stockley Street and one on the southeast corner of the Bayard Avenue and Hickman Street intersection.
City Public Works Director Kevin Williams said at the Bayard and Hickman location, there’s a 40-foot-tall wooden utility pole that will be replaced with another wooden pole of the same height, but with the antenna on top.
At the Stockley site, said Williams, a new 40-foot-tall wooden pole will be installed between the last utility pole and the Boardwalk. He said AT&T can’t mount the antenna on the existing pole on Stockley because it has a primary power connection.
Mayor Paul Kuhns said he thought these locations were better options than the ones AT&T proposed two years ago for the same antennas. He reminded everyone that AT&T had originally proposed installing an antenna where there was nothing on Bayard and in the middle of the end of the street on Stockley.
“This looks a lot better from an aesthetic perspective,” said Kuhns.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser asked if it were possible to challenge the Stockley location. She suggested seeing if a light pole could be replaced.
“Just to have two poles side-by-side like that doesn’t seem to meet our aesthetic standards,” she said.
For health and safety reasons, Heather Metz, a member of Rehoboth’s recently created environmental committee, urged the city to reconsider installation of both antennas, especially the one on Bayard. She said there are a lot of unknowns with how the radio frequencies of these stronger antennas are going to affect people, and that pole will be 25 feet from the second floor of the house being built.
“This location only serves the residential area, where homeowners already have access to high-speed internet in their homes and adequate cellphone coverage,” said Metz. “The beach and commercial areas will not be served by this location.”
Rehoboth passed its wireless technology ordinance in September. The ordinance was created in response to a September 2018 ruling from the Federal Communications Commission determining that wireless technology is necessary infrastructure. The ruling limited local government power to charge fees to wireless providers and determine the location of new towers or antennas. It also established timelines for municipalities to approve or deny cell tower requests.
AT&T installed five antennas in 2019 – two on Rehoboth Avenue, one on Wilmington, one on top of the information center at the Delaware Avenue end of the Boardwalk and one on the Boardwalk at Baltimore Avenue.
Lynn said future requests by AT&T are uncertain, but she’s been told these will be the only antennas for the foreseeable future.
These two antennas aren’t the only ones in the works. In November, the city said Verizon had approached the city about installing 18 short-range, lower-power antennas on Boardwalk light poles before summer.
During the recent meeting, Lynn said no decision has been made on this request, but the city has asked Verizon to replace all the light poles on the Boardwalk when the antennas are installed so the consistency remains the same. She said Verizon had not responded to that request.
In October, Rehoboth Beach commissioners voted in favor of allowing Verizon to permanently install cellphone antennas on the downtown water tower.