This ruling makes a lot of sense. The federal law requires municipalities to provide an explanation to cell phone tower companies when a permit to erect a cell tower is turned down. The cell phone operator has a deadline in which to appeal a denial. But the municipality in this case, the City of Roswell, Georgia, did not provide the explanation of why the permit was turned down. This placed the cell carrier, T-Mobile South in the position of guessing as to the reasoning which in turn gave the City a way of attacking the appeal. The municipality was gaming the system and this court put a stop to it.

Docket: 13-975 Opinion Date: January 14, 2015

Roswell’s city council held a public hearing to consider T-Mobile’s application to build a cell phone tower on residential property. Council members expressed concerns about the tower’s impact on the area. The council unanimously denied the application. Two days later, the city informed T-Mobile by letter that the application had been denied and that minutes from the hearing would be made available. Detailed minutes were published 26 days later. The district court held that the city, by failing to issue a written decision stating its reasons for denial, had violated the Telecommunications Act, which provides that a locality’s denial “shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record,” 47 U. S. C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii). The Eleventh Circuit found that the Act’s requirements were satisfied. The Supreme Court reversed. It would be difficult for a reviewing court to determine whether denial was “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record,” or whether a locality had “unreasonably discriminate[d] among providers of functionally equivalent services,” or regulated siting “on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions,” if localities were not obligated to state reasons for denial. Those reasons need not appear in the denial notice itself, but may be stated with sufficient clarity in some other written record issued essentially contemporaneously with the denial. Because an applicant must decide whether to seek judicial review within 30 days from the date of the denial, the locality make available its written reasons at essentially the same time as it communicates its denial.

Summary by Justia, US Surpreme Court cases.

Steve Lombardi
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