SPV: AT&T continues to operate in violation of county law

Date Published: 
March 21, 2014

There is perhaps nothing more unjust than a deep-pocketed actor engaging in illegal activity for profit to the harm of innocent people simply because “it’s profitable and they can.”

This activity is even more abhorrent when it takes place right here in America, the deep-pocketed bully is AT&T, and it is the residents of Sussex County that the County itself has acknowledged are being severely harmed by AT&T’s on-going illegal activity in defiance of multiple County cease-and-desist demands.

After a more-than-four-year battle, on Jan. 27, at the Board of Adjustment meeting in Georgetown, AT&T was once again denied the special-use exception for the erection of a 100-foot cell tower on the property next to Sea Pines Village.

Without a permit and in defiance of multiple violations, AT&T continued for the past four years to operate and earn income on an illegal temporary tower on the property and have snubbed their noses at multiple violations issued by the County to remove the illegal tower. The County has been so persistent in their efforts to remove the tower that a case has been filed in Chancery Court (Case #8934) to force this carrier to remove this illegal operation.

Homeowners in great detail outlined the illegality, the dangers, the lack of need, and physical and financial impact on the community. Homeowners and Realtors are burdened, and there are concerns from lenders regarding the cell tower and their issuance of loans to potential buyers within close proximity to that tower.

Even with the proper decision from the County, denying AT&T the special-use exception again, this dilemma has not ended for our community. Regardless of any decision, an AT&T illegal cell tower is still standing at this time, in full view of potential buyers and Realtors who must, by law, disclose this as a negative factor.

Delaware law requires that real estate salespersons and brokers provide a consumer information statement (CIS) upon the first showing of a property. More importantly, the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) frowns upon cell towers and identifies them in their guidelines as “Hazards and Nuisances.” Further, the FHA will frequently not approve a loan for a property within close proximity to a tower.

Sussex homeowners attempting to buy or sell properties continue to struggle with financial losses because of an illegal action by AT&T which has lasted now almost five years.

Simply, placing antennas on any existing structure or even on a new tower more than 500 feet from a residential property is all AT&T has to do to be compliant with the law. However, they refuse, as this does not maximize their profits from rent. Therefore, AT&T continues to step on citizens and bully their way through one appeal after another of proper denials by the Board of Adjustment and the County. This is a delay tactic to allow AT&T to continue their bad behavior and violate the law.

The citizens of Sussex County and homeowners of Bethany Beach have stated they are fed up and have had enough from this service provider, and AT&T owes the people of the County and the County itself an apology for not following the law and for wasting time and money in their effort to gain profit at our expense.

Other carriers, and even AT&T itself in other locations, have co-located antennas on poles along the highway that do not interfere with the community. Homeowners also pointed out that AT&T already has equipment on Sussex Shores’ water tower and multiple other locations within a 2-mile radius, which ensures no gap in coverage exists if those locations are properly utilized, rendering any assertion of a gap and coverage dubious assertions.

The real fact is that AT&T wants to build a tower, rent space and make money. This is solely a profit move, and only big business will benefit. AT&T was asked if they could put the equipment on the pole on the highway, as they themselves and their competitors do regularly, and they indicated they lack the technology to do so. That statement alone says it all.

AT&T’s home office should take a long look at the manner in which their attorney and witnesses have used mirrors, smokescreens, misstatements and name-calling for the past four years in an attempt to pull a fast one over on government officials, Sussex County’s governing body, Bethany Beach homeowners and citizens. These crude tactics simply did not work.

What remains clear and what is the only point of importance is that AT&T does not qualify for the special-use exception under Sussex County law and continues to act illegally.

AT&T is a service provider, and when a service provider begins to harass the County and the citizens it is supposed to provide service for, then it is time to no longer do business with this provider. There are many other providers that will be happy to serve the customers and the community.

At this point we feel that AT&T, through their actions and bad behaviors in the past four years has lost their right to ask the County or the citizens for anything. We do not want or need a service provider bullying citizens and homeowners. The County, citizens and homeowners have expended enough time, effort, and personal and taxpayer money on fighting this conglomerate and their continued illegal activity.

Thank you to all the dedicated County officials, homeowners, adjacent homeowner associations and individuals for coming together and standing up to this conglomerate’s abuse of residents. We encourage you not to support companies like AT&T, and any landowners that refuse to follow the law or consider the communities they rely upon for business.

The citizens and homeowners are the primary concern of the County, not increasing profits of a cell service carrier. There are many service carriers, and your choices as residents and consumers are perhaps your strongest voice against such abhorrent behavior by bad actors like AT&T.