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Verizon Agrees to Move 5G Poles from Delaware Beach

The telecom giant has agreed to a settlement with residents of Dewey Beach that it will remove five 5G poles from oceanside sand dunes and beach entrances. But there are still seven poles that are unaffected by the settlement.

(TNS) — It's the classic: Will they or won't they? Move the 5G poles in Dewey Beach, Del., that is.

For the past year, Dewey Beach residents have fought with Verizon over the placement of utility poles along the beachfront. Their concerns were heard: In a settlement reached with the wireless company, Verizon has promised to move some of those poles.

In June, Dewey Beach residents Alex Pires, Diane Cooley and John Snow filed a lawsuit against Verizon, requesting that the court prohibit the wireless company from installing any additional 5G poles on or near the ocean-side sand dunes in an effort to protect what they say became obstructed views of the beach and ocean.

The lawsuit focused on five wireless communication poles that Verizon installed in the sand dunes or at beach entrances in Dewey Beach.

Pires, who also owns several businesses in the Dewey Beach area, and his fellow plaintiffs reached an agreement with Verizon in late November. In the settlement, Verizon promised to move the five utility poles as long as the company receives reimbursement for the cost of moving them.

This money is expected to come from the state as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Bond and Capital Improvements Act.

Back in September, Dewey Beach approved an agreement that the state would provide $375,000 toward the town's effort to relocate 5G poles. This came after Sen. Ernie Lopez, R- Lewes, and House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D- Rehoboth Beach, got involved in the negotiations with Verizon.

The settlement also suggests specific sites for relocating each pole. Two of the proposals include relocating the wireless equipment onto existing poles owned by Delmarva Power. Verizon has already received permission from that local utility company, according to the settlement.

The other three proposals would move the poles so that they line up with other poles in the area and no longer sit immediately adjacent to beach entrances.

Once Verizon receives approval from the town and Delmarva Power, the wireless company will have 90 days to move the poles, according to the settlement.

If Verizon cannot move the poles to these suggested locations — because it could not get approval from the town or Delmarva Power, for example — then the company must "use good faith efforts" to gain approval for alternative locations that are "mutually acceptable" and provide Verizon the same wireless network capacity and coverage as the original locations.

A Verizon representative said in a statement that the company is proud to offer 5G to Dewey residents and tourists who visit the beach town.

"We are pleased with the settlement and will continue to work with state legislators and Dewey on our future network deployment," the statement read.

While this settlement is a major win for those fighting for the relocation of 5G poles, more pieces continue to fall into place to ensure that future wireless infrastructure does not block the town's beloved beach views.

As a legislative solution, the town of Dewey Beach has been working to pass a new ordinance and design standards that can help the town better regulate wireless infrastructure.

Just last week, the town passed the most recent update of this ordinance, which primarily sets a process for obtaining permits for wireless facilities. When commissioners voted to unanimously approve this ordinance on Dec. 2, they updated it to include a daily penalty fee of $500 for anyone who violates the ordinance.

The ordinance also sets basic height requirements for poles and prohibits wireless companies from installing any structures on residential properties, beach dunes and sidewalks — unless they can be placed on a sidewalk and still comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Going beyond those initial aesthetic guidelines, the commissioners approved a more detailed set of design standards at that meeting, as well.

While this sets Dewey Beach on more solid ground when defending its views from unsightly wireless communication poles, and the settled lawsuit provides hope for the relocation of five poles, the battle does not seem over quite yet.

For one, the town still has seven poles that are not affected by the settlement.

Additionally, Dewey Beach has yet to come to a final agreement with the Delaware Department of Transportation over who controls the town's public rights of way when it comes to regulating wireless infrastructure.

But if the town and its residents have shown anything over the past year, and earlier, it's that they're not afraid to take a stand for Dewey Beach and its landscape.

(c)2021 Dover Post, Del. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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