Sandy Springs has ordered the controversial installation of Verizon 5G poles in a neighborhood to halt indefinitely, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

A photo of Verizon Wireless subcontractors on April 1 trying to begin work for 5G poles taken by resident Ann Bates. (Special)

“Upon hearing that subcontractors were approaching homeowners during this time of a national pandemic crisis, the city has issued a Stop Work Order on all installation in [residential] neighborhoods until the end of [the] pandemic crisis,” city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.

The installation of poles had already been controversial, with the city and residents critiquing them, but the city has failed to be able to block the installation locally due to state law.

Residents of Derby Hills, a neighborhood near Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Windsor Parkway, saw Verizon subcontractors preparing to install the poles on April 1, resident Ann Bates said.

“Our view is that this is not essential business and work should be stopped to allow proper social distancing,” Bates said. 

According to Bates, the subcontractor showed up to start work with a Fulton County Sheriff present. Resident Bill Kaspers then called the city, leading to the stop work order.

“The subcontractors pushed back and said they were waiting for a letter from their management to be delivered saying they were not going to comply with the stop work order,” Bates said. “Another truck arrived from the subcontractor and within 10 minutes word came around saying that they would comply with the stop order.”

State law controls the installation of these towers in public rights of way, without regulation permitted from local municipalities. But cities are allowed to require permits and as part of that permitting process, the contractor must notify residents of the pending work, according to Kraun.

Bates said some neighbors were being given notice and left business cards on their doors and Verizon started to mark the work locations as of last week. 

Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Verizon plans to install over 1,000 new poles in the city in preparation for 5G, the newest generation of wireless technology for cellular networks.

This is not the first time residents of Derby Hills have raised concerns about Verizon’s plans. In February, residents said that Verizon did not communicate with anyone in the neighborhood before beginning the process of digging up yards for pole placement.

But city officials said they cannot interfere because of the new law that passed last year restricting local control on cell towers. In response to the new law, some cities are deciding to join a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.