Plaintiff Independent Tower Holdings, LLC, attempted to construct a cell phone tower in Fairweather Park and Nature Preserve in Medina, Washington, for T-Mobile West LLC. Independent Tower applied to the City of Medina for the necessary permits and, after a public hearing, the Hearing Examiner denied the application due to: lack of evidence that an 80 foot structure was necessary to avoid a service gap on SR 520; lack of evidence that the proposed tower was the least intrusive on the residential community; and lack of an alternative site analysis. Plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought reconsideration of this denial. In this case, the moving parties sought a Court order directing the City to grant Independent Towers a special use permit and variance to install, operate, and maintain the tower in Fairweather Park as set forth in Independent Towers’ application. The City of Medina residents (“Intervenors”) opposed the motion, arguing that the moving parties failed to evaluate any alternative sites and facilities other than a 45 foot pole at the Fairweather Park site.
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, arguing that the Hearing Examiner’s denial of the permit application effectively prohibited T-Mobile from providing wireless communication services, in violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. § 332(c)(7)(A)). A locality violates the “effective prohibition” clause if its decision prevents a wireless provider from closing a “significant gap” in cell phone coverage, and that the manner in which it proposes to fill that gap “is the least intrusive on the values the denial sought to serve.” The Court found that the moving parties failed to show the absence of a genuine issue of fact regarding the “least intrusive” step of the analysis and that the Intervenors had specified reasons why they needed additional time in which to fully investigate the “substantial coverage gap” and the relative intrusiveness of the proposed facility. Because municipalities may not waive or consent to a violation of their zoning laws, which are enacted for the benefit of the public, the court declined to enter the Stipulated Judgment until the “least intrusive analysis” could be properly conducted.
T-Mobile West LLC and Independent Tower Holdings, LLC, v. City Of Medina, Washington and Respect Medina and Medina Residents No. C14-1455RSL (WD WA 8/25/15)
For more information and a copy of the order, see: http://www.respectmedina.us/news/2015/8/5/t-mobiles-one-truth-and-a-lie-t-mobile-tells-consumers-t-mobiles-coverage-in-medina-is-excellent-but-then-tells-the-judge-its-coverage-in-medina-is-horrible