Letters to the Editor -- April 15, 2011


Local resident upset with cell tower
Editor:

It is very unfortunate that it was solely up to the residents of Sea Pines Village and the residents of the town of Bethany Beach, Del., to work with such passion and pay the expenses to prove what should have been decided in the beginning – that the interests of one person, regardless of who they are, should not take precedence over the safety and the welfare of the common good.

The people have spoken, and now the Board of Adjustment and the County Council, along with the representatives, are aware of how the people feel regarding this issue. It is time for our government representatives to take a stand and represent the voice of the people and deny the exception for the AT&T cell tower.

AT&T failed to meet legal requirements to get the exception, as they failed to exhaust existing alternatives to this proposed tower. AT&T also failed to admit that there is a tower near the McDonald’s, 1,000 feet away from the proposed site that is part of “their conglomerate.”

The reason that AT&T did not disclose this information is that this option would not afford them the opportunity to collocate and provide AT&T and William Pepper the windfall they desire. They lied. They lied time and again, and there is no other way to sugarcoat this fiasco.

They do not care about customers, customers’ service or coverage. They do not care about the homeowners who had to sell their homes at a loss because of the “existing illegal tower.” They do not care about those residents who lost rental income or those who will lose their lifetime investments or their dream home by the shore.

They do not care about the safety of the workers and customers in their own Arby’s restaurant and BP gas station and the families that are under the drop zone of this proposed tower.

The only thing that AT&T and the Peppers care about is making money at any cost to the residents of Bethany Beach and the shore.

Hundreds of residents have signed petitions, written letters, made phone calls in opposition to this 100-foot tower in Bethany Beach. Sea Pines Village was not the only group expressing dissatisfaction. Other groups opposing the granting of this exception included the entire Bethany Beach Council, the Bethany Beach Land Owners Association, Sea Colony and countless others.

Sea Pines Village is in the direct drop zone, and the risks of placing this tower on a gas station near residences, on a retention pond, near the coast, with small children within the drop zone, is totally irresponsible on the part of AT&T and the Peppers.

This is the United States of America, and our fathers, brothers, sons and daughters did not fight in the battlefields so that “one man gets his way” and others do not have a voice.

The real shame lies in the fact that neither William nor Brian Pepper, even if this was a less-than-perfect business decision, has the courage to say that what they are doing to their neighbors and the town of Bethany Beach is wrong and walk away with some semblance of character.

As for AT&T, if service was the real issue, AT&T would be concentrating on populous areas, rather than a town with a population with less than 1,000.

There is only one responsible decision for the Board of Adjustment to make on April 18, and AT&T has made this very easy for them because of their misrepresentations of the truth. The people have spoken, and there is no other option than to deny the exception for the 100-foot tower in Bethany Beach.

Barbara Gerk
Sea Pines Village

Elling offers final thoughts on election
Editor:

Congratulations to Tom Sheeran and Gordon Wood for their election victories. Thank you to George Pickrell and his supporters for their very close contest for mayor. Thank you to Perry Mitchell for his service to the Town of Ocean View Council. Thank you to all who voted in our town’s election. Thank you to each of our election officials and town staff for their work.

I hold out hope that one day all of our town’s taxpayers will have a vote for and on our Ocean View Town Council. I hold out hope that our business development on the corners of Route 26 and West Avenue will give our town a terrific central image.

Unfortunately, this election may have rejected soundly those ideas. I hope that the frustrations of the residents of the Preserve development will soon find a fairer resolution with the Town of Ocean View. Thank you to my old neighbors and friends in the Cottages.

Lloyd Elling
Ocean View

Reader: Shame on AT&T and Pepper
Editor:

On March 21, in their third duplicative application over the last two years, AT&T continued their efforts to steamroll hundreds of Delaware residents and their own customers – again pushing for a “special-use exception” to the zoning laws to build a 100-foot cell tower on the Pep-Up gas station on the border of Bethany Beach.

Fortunately, for the people of Sussex County, almost 1,000 people wrote and testified in opposition of the application, and the facts and evidence of the case unquestionably will require the Board of Adjustment to reject this ridiculous application. But shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up.

Shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up for their stop-at-nothing tactics – even seemingly misrepresenting the truth under oath – just to try to get the cell tower allowed so they can make a quick windfall profit at hard-working residents’ literal expense and detriment.

At a time where we are all aware hard-working Americans are continually having their rights, way of living and savings slashed so a handful of entities can make a windfall profit – it is appalling how openly AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up are willing take from thousands for a windfall in their own bank accounts. Shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up. The people of Delaware deserve better.

For those who are unfamiliar with this case, in order for AT&T, or any cell tower applicant wanting to place a cell tower within 500 feet of residential property, to be granted a “special-use exception” in Sussex County, they must prove (not just say), among other things, that:

• There are no alternative sites or ways of providing the alleged service; and

• The placement of a cell tower at the proposed location won’t adversely affect neighboring property.

Special-use exceptions are in the County Code for very unique scenarios where someone wants to use their property in a special way that will unquestionably not harm others – in particular your neighbors.

The requirement of obtaining a special-use exception recognizes the likely immense harm to neighboring residents when a cell tower is placed within 500 feet of their property. AT&T is asking for a favor – one which the County Code and prudence requires the County to not grant unless it is certain no one will suffer if that favor is granted.

Without even getting into the particulars of AT&T’s request – any reasonable person easily recognizes that jamming a 100-foot cell tower on top of hundreds of residential homes, and so close (70 feet) they sit within the drop zone and must stare right at the tower and equipment from their yards, will be extremely harmful to the neighboring property.

This is not a scenario for which these “exception” provisions were created. AT&T is aware they cannot come close to meeting the criteria and accordingly continues to try to pull the wool over the Board of Adjustment, the County and the residents.

For example, AT&T originally tried to shuffle the application in under the radar in October 2009, right after the close of beach season, when few would be around, actively watching.

After a successful appeal to reverse AT&T’s approval (which was decided without notice and excluded hundreds of neighbors) – the people now were able to bring the facts to light – punching gaping holes in AT&T’s purposeful omissions and misstatements before the Board on March 21. Shame on AT&T.

First, AT&T said this location is the only place they can put further antennas. False. AT&T knows and previously admitted it can place any further desired cellular antennas on any of numerous water towers, building rooftops and existing towers in the area without building a hideous cell tower.

By federal law, AT&T also must be allowed by utilities to place an antenna(s) on any utility pole (47 CFR §1.1403). But AT&T knowingly hid these alternatives from the Board, especially the availability of the hundreds of utility poles in the Bethany Beach area, feet away from the proposed location, because while these alternative options allow AT&T to provide cell phone coverage they (AT&T) will not be able to get the windfall profit using any of the plethora of these other available locations.

AT&T, in fact, already has an antenna(s) on a utility pole in front of a McDonalds, a mere 1,000 feet (a Tiger Woods drive) from the current proposed location. However, AT&T hid this information from the Board until opponents raised these facts.

So let’s be clear – AT&T wants a new tower for one reason and one reason alone: to be able to charge others rent on the tower. Pep-Up and its owners/leasers to AT&T, William and Brian Pepper, also want the rent. This is rent they will be collecting while hundreds lose money on and the use of their homes, for which many have worked a lifetime. Shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up.

Second, even if placement of a 100-foot cell tower at Pep-Up was hypothetically the only way AT&T could provide better coverage, if the tower may adversely affect neighboring/adjacent property, the law requires the application be rejected. Almost 1,000 people have written, spoken or otherwise voiced opposition to placement of this tower and expressed, based upon their property expertise as landowners in the area, that the tower will unquestionably destroy the character of the area and will drive property values down 15 to 30 percent, and in some cases as much as 50 percent.

A look at a picture of what the tower will do to the appearance of the area is truly worth a thousand words (www.nocelltowerbb.com). Not to mention the unconscionable idea of placing a cell tower requiring electrical and high-voltage cabling and constant work and maintenance on a 5-foot strip of land at the edge of a retention pond that regularly floods.

Federal law requires warning sign to be posted at gas station, stating the known dangers of merely using cell phones at gas pumps – but AT&T purports it’s a good idea to place a cell tower and high-voltage wires feet away from those same gas and propane tanks. Shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up.

AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up have known for months, if not years, how severely the community will be affected and how strongly it opposes the tower. The entire Bethany Beach Town Council, Bethany Beach Landowners Association (and its almost 1,000 members), Sea Pines Village and countless members of Sea Colony – all vehemently and unanimously oppose the tower and have publicly done so for months, if not years.

This bullying has forced residents to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal and related fees to protect their homes and what is rightfully theirs from this attack by AT&T and Pep-Up. But they do not care – as they continue to push this case – including delay tactics of pulling their application in February and immediately re-filing a few days later to try to diffuse the immense opposition.

They have also continued their insistence on leaving an illegal temporary tower up, for which they were issued a cease-and-desist letter by Sussex County. Shame on AT&T and William and Brian Pepper of Pep-Up.

Lastly, as you may be aware, over the last year, the Board of Adjustment has received media attention for its high (90 percent-plus) approval rate of applications for special-use exceptions and variances. The Sussex County Council has recently indicated in newspaper articles that it has worked on reviewing the decision-making process of the Board and it has held a workshop, which I attended, and it has alleged the Board has worked to cure recent ills.

I personally hope and believe the Board of Adjustment wants to decide this case pursuant to the law on behalf of Sussex County.

Hundreds of people of Sussex County have already been harmed, having been:

(1) Deprived their due process due to no notice being provided of the original hearing;

(2) Repeatedly denied requests for rehearing in light of the lack of notice for the hearing;

(3) Had the application approved 3-2 because “no one showed up to the hearing” even though no one could know about it;

(4) Had AT&T build and operate a “temporary tower” knowingly, at its own risk, distinct from the original application (and thus per se illegal), and, even after the decision was reversed in the Superior Court of Delaware, AT&T was allowed to keep the tower up indefinitely because they “might apply again”; and

(5) After months of delay by AT&T, the County finally issued a cease-and-desist order to AT&T and Pep-Up, which they did not enforce, even when the timeline for compliance expired, meaning AT&T was, and still is, in violation of the County’s order.

After the immense body of evidence against the tower presented at the hearing on March 21, the people of Sussex County, Sea Pines Village, Bethany Beach, Sea Colony, etc., know rejection of the application is an extremely easy decision for the Board, as it is the only decision that can be made under Sussex County law. These same people of Sussex County are confident the Board will reject the application as required by the law and the overwhelming evidence.

However, it is also clear to these same folks that, if the Board ignores the facts and the law to approve the application, the only conceivable reason would be as a result of improper “outside influences” and a predisposition in favor of the applicant/landowner, especially in light of the described case history of this matter.

But, as stated before, I am extremely confident this Board will decide this case on the facts and the interest of the people of Sussex County. I believe that they will confirm our suspicions on April 18, that the earlier incorrect decision(s) in this matter were mere mistakes, which we all can make, and not an unscrupulous predisposition in favor of the applicant/landowner and against the hundreds of people of Sussex County.

The people of Sussex County look forward to this harmful problem and issue “going away” when the cell tower application in Case No. 10778 is rejected on April 18 – and I personally look forward to it, as well.

But AT&T’s and William Pepper’s and Brian Pepper’s attack against the community in this matter will never be forgotten. Shame on them. The people of Sussex County deserve better.

David R. Gerk
Sea Pines Village

Reader addresses other landfill issue

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O’Mara and was forwarded to state Rep. Gerald Hocker and to the Coastal Point for publication.

I, like many Delawareans, was taken by surprise with your poorly planned and implemented abandonment of yard waste pick-up. We and the trash hauling industry are still struggling with how best to comply. However, I applaud your good intentions.

I also understand the complexities of recyclables versus trash. The September 2011 implementation of the new recycling requirement seems reasonable, except for the cost. Your efforts with this at least show some forethought. And again I applaud your good intentions with recycling.

Apparently, the landfill volume associated with both yard waste and recyclables is the prime mover for the collection changes that you have implemented. And we should all be concerned with these landfill capacity issues. But it seems to me that there is an elephant in the room of the landfill quandary that is being completely ignored. The landfill problems of yard waste and recyclables pales in comparison with that of the effect of disposable diapers.

I’m quite sure that, like yard waste and recyclables, you have reasonable estimates of the tonnage of disposable diapers being dumped into our landfills. It has to be considerable, and I fail to understand why this is not a bigger concern than yard waste – especially since Delaware gets most of its water from underground aquifers.

I am concerned with this because we have spent hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of dollars on sewage treatment facilities and apparently ignore disposable diapers in our landfills. There are regulations that control and require the proper disposal of human waste from our homes and even boats, yet disposable diapers continue to be discarded in our apparently shrinking landfills.

I would like to hear from you concerning your solution to this very serious problem.

Thomas M. Keeley III
Ocean View

Band boosters get great help with event
Editor:

The Indian River Band Boosters would like to thank all who contributed to another successful bingo fundraiser. The response and attendance from the community shows the support and belief in our wonderful IR Music Department.

We would like to thank the Millville Fire Company for hosting our event, the Bethany Beach Fire Company for the loan of their tables and chairs, the Lord Baltimore Lions Club for their time in coming out to help with admissions and the 50/50, Brian K. Hall from Cat Country, who served as our “guest caller,” all businesses and boosters who contributed items, and, of course, our boosters, parents and students who worked the entire event.

We’d also like to thank the Mills Family for cooking the delicious pit beef sandwiches. Through teamwork, much can be done. Thanks for supporting the arts.

Ruth Ann Marvel,
Bingo Event Chairperson
Indian River Band Boosters

Sheeran thankful for support in election
Editor:

I sincerely appreciate and wish to thank all of the Ocean View voters for their support of my candidacy as District 3 councilperson. I value the voters’ trust in me to responsibly represent the citizens of Ocean View. I promise to do my best to control spending and continue working to make our town the highlight of Delaware’s Quiet Resorts.

Thomas J. Sheeran,
District 3 Councilperson-Elect
Ocean View

Resident hopeful that cell tower denied
Editor:

I am a Bethany Beach homeowner and am in complete opposition to a 100-foot AT&T cell tower being placed directly behind my Sea Pines Village property. It just doesn’t make sense to place it right in heart of this beautiful Quiet Resort town (as the welcome sign boasts).

I can’t understand the logic of allowing a 100-ft tower to be placed within the fall line of homes and businesses. The international standard requires towers to be 1,500 feet away from residential property. The required set back in Sussex County should not be one-third of the height but at least 125 percent of the height.

In addition, this proposed location fills with rainwater regularly and has a swampy consistency. Given the high winds that whip off the ocean only two blocks away, we would be exposed to unnecessary danger.

At the last county Board of Adjustments meeting, there were 45 unified owners/guests of Bethany Beach in attendance (including the mayor) against the tower and the only ones who showed up supporting the tower were William Pepper and his son, who aim to profit from the placement.

A grassroots effort against the tower brought in 570-plus signatures of Bethany homeowners, business people, renters and guests.

This proposed eyesore and noise generator would be placed in one of the most densely populated areas of Bethany Beach, directly visible from over a hundred patios, decks, balconies and windows and two large pool complexes.

I was recently speaking with someone who works on these towers, and he told me that work on these towers is done at night, so as to not cut off service to customers during the day. This means we would hear the banging and clanging during sleeping hours also.

And while it is only AT&T for now, we all know that they will sell space on the tower to other providers, which will also need to service the tower. This infringement on the quality of life to homeowners and renters will result in lower home values and lost rental income.

It was clear in the meeting that AT&T had not done extensive work on finding another location. And why bother when it is easier for them to send a lawyer who is already on their payroll to close the deal they made with Pepper?

The landmark for Bethany Beach has always been the totem pole. It is my hope that the Board of Adjustments says no to AT&T on April 18 so that visitors to Bethany don’t start to reference the 100-foot cell tower to know they have arrived.

Karen Stellato-Sa
Bethany Beach

Fundraiser a success, thanks to many
Editor:

Thank you to all who came out to raise money for the Fund for Pulmonary Fibrosis at Johns Hopkins in memory of Harry Walls.

A special thanks goes to the staff at the Cottage Café, who hosted our spring Tour de Har event. We had great guest bartenders, the band was fun and our raffle team was fantastic. Thank you also to our generous sponsors.

And, as always, it is the people of this community who make our events successful. With your help, we are raising money to help fund the research for a disease for which there is no cure. The families who live with the consequences of this disease are most appreciative.

Mark your calendars for the Tour de Har bicycle ride for Pulmonary Fibrosis on July 30, 2011.

The Walls family
Doreen, Phoebe, Ian, Kerinne and Sam

Woods grateful for support in election
Editor:

Thank you, Ocean View, for re-electing me as mayor. I appreciate your votes and your confidence and trust in me.

The election is over, the votes are counted, and it is time for everyone to be in the same camp: the what’s-best-for-Ocean View camp. I know that this was a hard-fought election, but I ask everyone who was not elected and their supporters to join together for Ocean View. I am confident this will be the case.

Elections are and should be hard work for candidates. Our town deserves nothing less. Understanding the issues and meeting our townfolks at their front door is hard work, but, you know what – the face-to-face conversations were really a pleasure. So many nice people in our town! Thank you for taking your time to talk to me.

Let me compliment Councilman-Elect Tom Sheeran. He will be a worker and a great asset on our council and for our town.

Finally, I thank everyone who voted for me and supported me in my campaign. Two of the hardest workers were my wife, Pat, and my special sister Susan Timmons – thanks to both of you! Another special thank-you to Bob Bacon, Gary Meredith and Bob Lawless.

We live in a great town with great people. Working together, we can make it even better. Come to council meetings, speak your piece and watch us work. We will work hard for you.

Gordon E. Wood Sr., Mayor
Ocean View