Crown Castle plans to install a 48-foot-tall small cell pole, replacing a light pole in a public-right-of-way (ROW). The issue is that the ROW is on the corner of homeowners’ Dawn and Paul van Rijn’s property, and they were not pleased when an orange cone and spray appeared unexpectedly on their lawn, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I felt nauseous,” Dawn said after a call to the Doylestown Township Manager inquiring about the project that couple said was unexpected and unannounced.
Already there are more than 1,800 small cell antennas in Philadelphia, with thousands more expected in the city, according to the Inquirer. Although the city of Philadelphia opposes the new rules enacted by the FCC regarding small cells, the Pennsylvania Legislature has already failed, three times, to pass an industry-friendly 5G bill.
In June 2018, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court reversed a decision by the Public Utilities Commission granting telecoms, like Crown Castle, utility status. This new ruling gave telecoms virtually unfettered access to public rights-of-way for small cell antennas and PUC is contesting the decision. (see story above)
Regarding the van Rijn’s case, Township Manager Stephanie Mason said, “We didn’t change the rules. The rules changed on us. This is in the right of way, and we have been told that we don’t control that anymore.” As an alternative for the van Rijns’, Mason suggested installing the antenna on a PECO electric pole across the street. The utility said due to the high-voltage electric lines the request was denied.
Plans for the new Crown Castle pole were discussed at public meetings and posted on the township’s Facebook page. However, neither of the van Rijns use social media and didn’t check the township website claiming they weren’t aware of the project. Crown Castle manager John Shive visited the van Rijn’s after their initial inquiry, showing them the development plans, which the couple had never seen before.
Dawn reportedly cried, begging Shive to put the small cell on another property. “Would you do this to your mother or your wife?” she asked him. Dawn, a realtor, said the small cell in their front yard would reduce their property value. “I don’t want a buzzing black box that emits radio frequencies in my yard,” she said. Paul commented that there was an “unfairness to it” and observed that Crown Castle would be making money off the pole in his front yard.
Crown Castle spokeswoman Ana Rua said that the company “has operated with full transparency and openness with the township” and that Crown Castle expects to “deliver and build as planned.” She noted that possible modifications to the pole would be considered, but they have not yet been confirmed.
In the meantime, the couple met with attorney Jordan Yeager, the solicitor for neighboring Doylestown Borough, which paid $150,000 in legal fees to fight Crown Castle over its plan to add small cell antennas in the borough’s historic district without its consent, per the Inquirer. In 2018, the borough settled with the telecom, claiming a partial victory, as Crown Castle agreed to negotiate the location of the antennas and share some of the revenue from the small cells with the borough.
September 6, 2019