(Nov. 15, 2019) As if requesting permission to install a small cell antenna within residential areas wasn’t enough to agitate members of the City Council Tuesday night, the suggestion to add a police surveillance camera to the structure in an uptown neighborhood was the tipping point for Councilman John Gehrig.
“My kids live there,” Gehrig said pointedly to Councilman Mark Paddack, who had made the suggestion. “There are two young kids in this whole neighborhood and you want to put a camera in my neighborhood?”
The source of Gehrig’s agitation grew out of the Crown Castle company’s request to install a small antenna node near 311 Old Landing Rd. in the Caine Keys neighborhood where the councilman lives.
In addition to the Old Landing Road location, Crown Castle sought to add small cell antennas on 1909 Marlin Dr., 401 Bering Rd. and 99 88th Street.
The request was unpopular among most council members, particularly in regards to those that would be placed in R-1 zones.
Trey Spears, Crown Castle’s government relations specialist, said one reason those zones had been proposed was because an Ocean City police officer had told him that the department was facing connectivity issues in certain R-1 neighborhoods.
Gehrig was most vocal with his distaste for the small antenna installation — calling it a “real estate” play. His anger only increased after Paddack’s suggestion.
“The cell tower on Old Landing Road — I’d like you to reach out to our chief of police regarding if it is approved ... that a camera be considered at that location,” Paddack said.
“Absolutely not,” Gehrig said.
Gehrig said while it made sense to add the antennas and cameras in busy areas, such as the Boardwalk, adding them to residential areas, particularly those with few year-round residents, was illogical.
“There are maybe five or six year-round residents in that entire neighborhood, and even in the summer time there is hardly any volume down there,” Gehrig said.
He emphasized there was zero demand for better connectivity in the neighborhood.
Gehrig then accused Paddack of attempting to dictate decisions for the neighborhood.
“You don’t own Caine Keys, so shut up,” Gehrig said to Paddack.
“No, I don’t own it, and neither do you,” Paddack said. “You don’t own the land where that node is going to be.”
Council President Lloyd Martin called for a five-minute recess in an attempt to cool the tension, but the argument intensified to the point where the councilmen were nose-to-nose in argument.
Following the recess, both councilmen apologized for the ruckus, and council members voted to approve only the 88th Street antenna installation, while rejecting all others.
However, Paddack stressed that with the progression of fifth-generation (5G) cellular network technology, the city would need to install small cell antennas in residential areas to maintain efficient resortwide connectivity, particularly in regards to public safety calls.
“This is something that we can’t just push back,” Paddack said. “I think that with 8 million people coming through town, we need to stay on top of this … The advancement of 5G is coming, and we need to be prepared for that.”