Sheriff Needs To Go
I was astonished to hear the comments made by Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis regarding his intention to not enforce certain laws if enacted by the state legislature. His comments were so bold and brazen that he has demonstrated to the citizens of Wicomico County that he is unfit for office.
I believe it is appropriate for State law makers to solicit and consider opinions from the public on all legislation being considered. Sheriff Lewis is certainly someone who should be consulted about gun legislation being considered. As an elected member of law enforcement, he should give his opinions if he wishes, and his opinions should be carefully considered by those enacting such laws.
However, while Sheriff Lewis is perfectly entitled to have personal opinions on issues, once a law is enacted it becomes his job to enforce the law. While expressing his opposition to a piece of legislation (SB 737) which would ban possession of the heavy barreled AR 15 rifle, he said “I will not comply with that law … It’s wrong. It’s unjust and it’s unconstitutional. It’s fundamentally flawed and I can’t do it.”
This is among the most unprofessional statements I have ever heard from a member of law enforcement. Sheriff Lewis has one very important job to do, and that is to enforce the laws on the books. By proclaiming he would put his personal views over and above that of the written law is akin to treason. If he really believes what he said, we should thank him for his service and show him the door. We need people in law enforcement that will enforce all laws, not just those that he or she may agree with.
Crofton and Ocean City
Cell Tower Decision Rushed By Officials
(The following was addressed to the Ocean City Mayor and Council with a copy sent to this publication.)
It is a concern to me that the City Council majority recently rushed and voted to approve small cell towers in the R-1 residential areas of Caine Woods, Caine Keys II and Little Salisbury, as well as near Heron Harbor. The FCC apparently stated in their 18-133 Ruling effective Jan. 14, 2019, under Sec. 89, “We appreciate that at least some localities will require some time to establish and publish aesthetics standards that are consistent with this Declaratory Ruling. Based on our review and evaluation of commenters’ concerns, we anticipate that such publication should take no longer than 180 days after publication of this decision in the Federal Register.” It would appear that the Town of Ocean City has until mid-July, 2019, to take more formal action regarding the small cell tower installations in residential areas.
Let me state from the outset that contrary to the misconception, Distributed Cellular Antenna Systems (DAS) are not regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission. The Town has a nonexclusive written cable franchise agreement with Comcast. It appears in the Town Charter, Sec. 39-202. As of Feb. 27, 2019, Crown Castle has no such written franchise agreement with the Town. Under Sec. 39-203 (a)(3), the Cable Franchise agreement requires that before a franchise is awarded, there is to be “… a reasonable opportunity for consideration of the views of interested parties …”
Sec. 39-205, entitled “Procedure for granting franchise,” specifically paragraph (c)(2), requires the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) to schedule a hearing whereby ” … any person having any interest or objection to the granting of the franchise may appear before the Mayor and City Council and be heard.” Sec. 39-205(d) further provides that if a franchise is to be denied or granted, it must be by Resolution.
Sec. 39-301 of the Charter, spells out the franchise agreement between the Town and Sandpiper Energy, which has an exclusive right and franchise to provide propane and natural gas to the public. That franchise was revised and updated on Sept. 8, 2015, by Ordinance 2015-18. That ordinance details the criteria for that franchise and all the provisions of that agreement.
More recently, Ordinance 2017-15 was adopted on Oct. 2, 2017. It requires that Utility Owners complete a Utility Installation Agreement (UA). The ordinance states the purpose as, “The UA is required for installation of all privately owned utilities within Town of Ocean City Right-of-Ways and Public Easements. The UA provides guidelines to ensure public safety and protection of existing underground utilities.”
In March of 2009, Mayor Rick Meehan vetoed Ordinance 2009-3, which was a zoning amendment pertaining to small wind energy systems or wind turbines. On March 3, 2009, Mayor Meehan wrote to the City Clerk and the City Council stating, “I recommend that a new ordinance be crafted that would permit free-standing turbines in all zoning districts by Conditional Use…”. He added “As a Conditional Use, a public hearing would be held giving interested property owners the opportunity to participate in the decision.” Soon thereafter, Ordinance 2009-6 was adopted permitting small energy wind systems by Conditional Use. To date, no such opportunity to be heard at a Conditional Use hearing has been provided to R-1 residents regarding small cell towers.
In short, there have been no written and signed franchise agreements between Crown Castle and the Town of Ocean City. There have been no resolutions pertaining to small cell towers passed by the M&CC. And, there have been no ordinances passed establishing guidelines for the installation of small cell towers. More importantly, the residents and property owners have no formal way to comment on or protest the onslaught of these small cell towers, such as a Conditional Use hearing before the Planning & Zoning Commission. Likewise, the public has not had the opportunity to comment on any franchise agreement, resolution or ordinance before the M&CC.
Making the installation of small cell towers subject to a conditional use affords the M&CC the opportunity to follow the purpose of Conditional Uses as spelled out in Sec. 110-121 allowing for the elected body to make “…findings of fact in accordance with the standards herein prescribed and, further, finds that the conditional use will not be contrary to the public interest.”
On Feb. 12, 2019, the council majority voted to allow the installation of four new small cell towers in the R-1 zone in my community, Caine Woods. There are already another four existing small cell towers installed in the R-2A areas of Caine Woods which should have been reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission under a conditional use process, and then forwarded to the M&CC for approval or disapproval.
When the R-2A zoning code was amended in 2011 by Ordinance 2011-30, to accommodate the expansion of the Delmarva Power Plant/substation, language was added to Sec. 110-304, that reads under paragraph (2), “Public utilities and public services, not otherwise regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission, including buildings, treatment plants, pumping or regulator stations, substations, and principal transmission lines, but not including distribution and collection systems.” This amendment made public utilities and public services permitted by conditional use.
Again, small cell towers are not regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission. The common use and accepted meaning of “distribution and collection systems” pertains to water and wastewater systems.
Likewise, any small cell towers installed in any R-2 zones should have been reviewed under the Conditional Use process as well, since near identical language appears in Sec. 110-334(7). While “Essential Services,” which includes telecommunications, are a permitted use in residential zoning districts, it is debatable whether or not these small cell towers are truly “essential,” when other telecommunication services already exist.
The M&CC sent Crown Castle to negotiate the placement of small cell towers with the boards of directors of R-1 community associations. These board members have no authority to speak for all residents and property owners within these communities, particularly since these citizens have not been informed or polled about these installations; and especially those who will have these towers installed in front of their properties. There has been no polling of individual property owners in the R-1 communities. There have been no legal notices posted in local newspapers regarding proposed specific installations. There have been no letters mailed to affected property owners within the immediate vicinity of the proposed installation locations. And, there have been no posting of signage by the Planning & Zoning Department on or about the properties most impacted by these installations.
The “Distributed Cellular Antenna System (DAS) requirements modified on Jan. 10, 2017”, which were on pages 50-52 of the M&CC Work Session Packet on Dec. 11, 2018, have never been codified.
It is time for the M&CC to take immediate steps to remedy this situation. Thank you for your attention to this very important topic.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.