The Ocean City Mayor and Council is right to give the stink eye to every request for increased cell towers in residential neighborhoods. Each case should be reviewed individually, but it must be done in a respectful fashion.
At this week’s meeting, the council approved one of the four towers being sought by a contractor to improve connectivity throughout town. The sole tower was blessed because it was outside of a single-family neighborhood.
The elected officials in Ocean City have taken a hard stance for several years against placing these towers atop light poles or as standalone entities in neighborhoods. There were many comments supporting this position at this week’s council meeting. Councilman Tony DeLuca has been a consistent opponent, saying this week, “I’m certainly going to be voting no on this. It’s no secret I’m against any small cell towers in our R-1 neighborhoods.”
On the topic of a tower being placed near his home in north Ocean City, Councilman John Gehrig was even more blunt, “Clearly, you’re acquiring real estate for the future. There are no connectivity needs, and there has never been an issue with demand. If we have zero in Montego Bay where there are 1,800 homes and we’ve had no calls about connectivity problems, why do we need two in a half-mile strip?”
The problem here is the vendor, Crown Castle, has the right and power to put these towers wherever they deem reliable connections need to be improved. Fortunately, the company has bene responsive to the town’s concerns in the past and not pressed the matter. The fact is, however, the law is on the company’s side, and jurisdictions cannot simply determine their locations. The FCC has ruled compromises can be made, but the company has the ability to ultimately overrule the city and site these as needed.
It’s important to note here Crown Castle is in a competitive marketplace, and the company has been a solid partner for Ocean City. It clearly has been conservative with the volume of cell towers it has sought over the years because it understands the city’s trepidation. Additionally, the company has been deliberative and respectful with its communications, referring only lightly to the fact the government supports its wireless network efforts through recent FCC rulings.
Though officials should do all they can to protect residential areas, Ocean City needs to be aware its opposition has limits. A conciliatory partnership approach is favored over an adversarial one. Working together, rather than against, will be the best way to bear fruit in these case-by-case situations.