Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 25, 2017

Fed. Dist. Court in PA Finds Payment of License and Registration Fees for Wireless Facility was too Speculative as a Basis for Meeting Standing Threshold

Plaintiff Abington Township commenced this action against Defendant Crown Castle NG East LLC in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, for the Defendant to be enjoined from installing telecommunications poles, antennas and/or cellular nodes in the Township without first complying with any and all applicable Township Codes, including the Township’s Zoning and Telecommunications Codes. Defendant removed the action to this Court, asserting that it had both diversity jurisdiction and federal question jurisdiction over the matter.

The Township did not dispute that it was diverse from Defendant because the Township is a citizen of Pennsylvania and Defendant is a citizen of Delaware and Texas; however, it did content that the amount in controversy failed to meet the $75,000.00 threshold. Defendant claimed that the Complaint expressly sought a ruling that Defendant must pay license, franchise and registration fees, in its allegations that Defendant has violated Township Codes by: failing to obtain appropriate franchises, failing to pay a registration fee, and failing to obtain a license. The court rejected this contention, finding the Complaint never mentioned the franchise and license fees on which Defendant cited. Instead, the court found that the only fee the Complaint mentioned was a registration fee: only $100 annually. The Defendant’s contention that the object of this action was the payment of license and registration fees was therefore too speculative, and those fees were not considered in determining the amount in controversy.
In addition, the Township’s Telecommunications Code clearly required telecommunications providers to pay fees – such as those at issue – to reimburse the Township for “all direct and indirect costs and expenses of the Township related to the enforcement and administration of franchises and licenses.” The court therefore considered any fees collected as Defendant’s costs of doing business in the Township, and not as a value imparted to the Township. Accordingly, the court rejected Defendant’s request that the court include the fees Defendant may be required to pay if it was ultimately permitted to install new antennas, poles and nodes in the Township. Defendant therefore failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy was $75,000.00 or more. Because Defendant also failed to identify any specific federal interest in the dispute at hand, the court granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand.

Abington Township v. Crown Castle NG East LLC, 2017 WL 57142 (ED PA 1/5/2017)


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