Council Opposes Small Cell Proposal for Residential Neighborhoods

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Ocean City, MD officials voted against the Crown Castle proposal to install 22 (DAS) small cell towers on existing light poles throughout residential areas this week, but the “no action” vote may not halt the deployment, according to The Dispatch. Crown Castle proposed plans to install 90 DAS towers between 18 and 38 foot each in 2015. Since then, several towers have been built in the town’s preferred locations, to keep the towers as unobtrusive as possible. 

Crown Castle officials claim an increased need for better cell coverage during the town’s busier summer months, and nine of the 22 would be for heavily populated Montego Bay.

Crown Castle Government Relations Specialist Trey Spear said, “It’s really a capacity issue. The town of Ocean City is inundated during the summer months.” According to Spear, tall towers positioned outside of residential areas cannot solve the coverage issue. He said, “These small cell sites are to fill in areas that are uncovered or underserved.”   

Officials voted on a motion presented by Councilman Dennis Dare, that would allow the towers for other communities, but would put the towers set for Montego Bay on hold until alternate locations can be identified. According to The Dispatch, the motion failed with a 3-2 vote, resulting in “no action.” Mayor Rick Meehan predicted that Crown Castle would move forward with the proposal. He said, “ I think they will continue to look for ways to resolve this and challenge our vote.” Following the vote, Dare made a new motion that would allow companies to install small cell towers in places that are not residentially zoned, and the motion was passed.

Before the vote, residents were given a chance to voice their opinions during a public hearing. Holly Donovan, Montego Bay resident, claimed the public poll given by the civic association to gauge residents’ views on the proposed towers had inaccurate results, based on social media polls that clearly demonstrated the residents’ general opposition to them.

City Engineer Terry McGean said the Crown Castle contract states that the company would not install towers in residential areas for one year, and since that year has passed, the state now regards Crown Castle as a “public utility.” He said, “We can’t prohibit them, but we can attempt to regulate them.”

A recent FCC ruling has made it easier for companies to install towers in residential areas, and, according to McGean, local government will not be able to prevent this proposal from moving forward. McGean said Crown Castle has been understanding of the town’s desires to keep the towers as inconspicuous as possible, and he predicts they will do the same in the future. Meehan said, “I don’t think anybody wants them in their community. If they are inevitable, we can work with the company to make sure they are amenable for everybody.”  Comments? Email Us.

December 17, 2018

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