Downtown Wireless Accord Extended

OCEAN CITY — Satisfied a long-term plan for a location was being worked out, resort officials this week approved a one-year extension allowing for a nearly 100-foot temporary wireless communication downtown at Philadelphia Avenue.

As the demand for more and more wireless connectivity has increased in the resort, particularly during the summer months, so has the need for more towers to meet the needs of residents and visitors. To that end, T-Mobile-Smartlink in recent years has implemented a 95-foot Cellular on Wheels, or COW, tower at a location downtown on Philadelphia Avenue.

T-Mobile-Smartlink obtained a temporary permit for the COW at Philadelphia Avenue downtown with the understanding its wireless equipment would eventually be moved to the top of the Cambria Hotel downtown at 1st Street just north of the Route 50 Bridge. Zoning Analyst Carter Finney explained to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday the temporary permit for the COW was first issued in 2019 and has been extended on separate occasions while the wireless provider works toward a permanent agreement with the hotel. Finney explained the temporary permit was extended the first time because of complications with the ongoing merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.

“Temporary permits are usually limited to 180 days,” he said. “However, this essential service was approved for one extension until May 24, 2021 to allow for the resolution of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger. A second extension was approved by the Mayor and Council through Nov. 24, 2022.”

Finney said the T-Mobile-Smartlink’s agreement with the Cambria Hotel was in the books, but the company needed more time to install its equipment atop the lodging facility. He said the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) had reviewed the plans for installing the equipment on the hotel with the proper architectural features and screening and was satisfied.

“T-Mobile has negotiated an agreement to allow for the installation on the new Cambria Hotel to be accomplished and has obtained approval for architectural screening of the equipment,” he said. “A third and final one-year is requested.”

Mayor Rick Meehan suggested any approval for the extension should be contingent on confirming the wireless provider has a firm agreement in place with the hotel.

“I would think approval for the extension should be contingent that they do have a contract to relocate it to the Cambria Hotel,” he said. “This is something that could be going on year after year.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the one-year extension for the COW in the downtown area.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.