Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 14, 2014

Fed. Dist. Court in ME Dismisses TCA Claims an Unripe Where Applicants Failed to Exhaust Administrative Appeals

On April 8, 2013, Global Tower and Northeast submitted an application for review by the Rome Planning Board requesting approval to construct a wireless telecommunications tower in the Leased Area (the “Application”). The Belgrade Region Conservation Association (“BRCA”), a local organization that holds conservation easements in the Town of Rome, publicly expressed its direct opposition to the Application. Throughout the course of the proceedings before the Planning Board, Global Tower and Northeast learned that members of the Planning Board were also members of BRCA. At the December 9, 2013 Planning Board meeting, all four of the Planning Board members with BRCA membership stated their belief that they did not have a conflict of interest and were not biased. At that same meeting one of the co-chairs reiterated his belief that the communication tower would “defile” the Town’s scenery and that nobody in the Town wanted it. He then recused himself for being biased. At the conclusion of the February 10, 2014 meeting, the Planning Board voted to deny the Application. On March 11, 2014, Global Tower and Northeast filed their Complaint (ECF No. 1) against the Town of Rome and the Planning Board. Plaintiffs’ Complaint asserted nine counts.

The district court dismissed the claims brought under the Telecommunications Act (TCA) because Global Tower and Northeast had further recourse before the Town of Rome since they could have appealed to the Town Board of Appeals and potentially garnered a different result. The Plaintiffs’ Due Process claims were also dismissed as the First Circuit set a high bar for stating a claim of violation of due process in land use disputes and “run of the mill” disputes will not suffice.

Plaintiffs also asserted state-law claims for violations of Plaintiffs’ due process rights under the Maine Constitution (Count III), conflict of interest (Count IV), violations of 1 M.R.S.A. § 71 (Count V), bias (Count VI), violations of Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 80B and 30–A M.R. S.A. § 3012 (Count VII) and lack of authority (Count VIII). Because of the dismissal of Counts I and II, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims: “As a general principle, the unfavorable disposition of a plaintiff’s federal claims at the early stages of a suit, well before the commencement of trial, will trigger the dismissal without prejudice of any supplemental state-law claims.” Rodriguez v. Doral Mortgage Corp., 57 F.3d 1168, 1177 (1st Cir.1995).

Global Tower Assets, LLC v Town of Rome, Maine, 2014 WL 3784233 (D. Maine 7/31/2014)


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