Sam Barber recently successfully represented DeSoto County, Mississippi in the Northern District of MS in a federal lawsuit filed by Verizon Wireless. Verizon sued the County under the federal telecommunications act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7), seeking equitable relief and a declaratory judgment to set aside the Board of Supervisors decision to deny a conditional use application to build a 190 ft telecommunications tower and to issue a mandate allowing Verizon to build the tower in northwestern DeSoto County. The District Court ruled in favor of the County, dismissing the suit, upholding the decision of the Board.
After briefing and oral argument, the District Court issued a ruling in favor of the County, agreeing with the County's argument, finding that Verizon did not establish a significant gap in coverage. The District Court also found there was evidence, in the written record, to support each of the County's findings in its decision to deny the application to construct a new tower, except for the no build zone requirement of the zoning ordinance. Further, the Court agreed with the County, that Verizon failed to present evidence sufficient to establish a gap in service requiring a new tower to fill the gap.
The verdict in favor of the County was a victory for local governments' authority to preserve zoning laws if the face of the rapid expansion and competition between telecommunication companies in which telecom companies simply expect approval, without a thorough inspection by local governments of their applications, to build more and more towers across the area in the face of opposition and concern about the placement of the new towers. The case is Verizon Wireless Tennessee Partnership v. DeSoto County, Northern District of MS, Cause No. 3:18-cv-00043.