Worcester Rejects Cell Tower Lease After Ocean Pines Residents Raise Objections

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners voted not to approve an agreement that would have allowed for construction of a cell tower at the Ocean Pines Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Citing concerns from Ocean Pines residents, the commissioners voted against a proposed land lease agreement with Calvert Crossland LLC, a company that works with Verizon Wireless, for the use of property at the water treatment plant.

“It’s an addition that is unwanted in the community,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.

Initially, the commissioners were presented with a proposed lease with Verizon Wireless back in October. The agreement would have allowed the company to build a tower at the wastewater treatment plant in exchange for an annual fee. When the idea was presented, commissioners suggested staff inquire as to whether space on the tower could be reserved for future county broadband infrastructure.

As a result, staff returned to the commissioners Tuesday with a new agreement that would allow for a taller tower that would have space at the top for the county to use for communications equipment. Instead of being built by Verizon, however, the tower would be built by Calvert Crossland, as staff said Verizon was moving away from building its own towers.

Commissioner Jim Bunting was quick to voice his objections to the new agreement.

“It just doesn’t work for me,” he said.

Bunting objected to the fact that the tower had gone from a proposed 127 feet to 160 feet and that the county was only reserved four feet at the very top.

“I’m not happy it’s not Verizon,” he said. “It’s a third party that has rights to lease to other people at no benefit to the county.”

He also said the county needed to research the fees associated with similar leases elsewhere. In the agreement proposed, the county would have received $20,000 a year for the lease.

Bunting said he’d heard from more than two dozen area residents who didn’t want the tower built.

Commissioner Bud Church asked if there were other locations available for the tower.

“At the wastewater treatment plant, not a lot,” Public Works Director John Tustin said. “We know we need cell coverage along Route 90. There’s no doubt about that. If you want to provide cell coverage you need to build cell towers.”

Maureen Howarth, the county’s attorney, pointed out that the height of the proposed tower had increased to accommodate the county’s request for equipment space.

Barb Pivec, a partner in Calvert Crossland, approached the commissioners to talk about the proposed tower. She said the site had been in the works for more than five years. Bertino cut her off.

“I feel as if we’re getting a presentation here and that’s not what we’re here for today,” Bertino said. Church, however, asked for Pivec’s business card and asked her to look at tower sites in his district.

The commissioners voted 4-0 in support of a motion from Bunting to not sign the agreement with Calvert Crossland. Commissioners Josh Nordstrom, Ted Elder and Church abstained from the vote.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.