T-MOBILE SOUTH, LLC v. CITY OF ROSWELL, GA.
Telecommunications service provider T-mobile South, LLC (T-mobile) submitted an application to construct a 108–foot cell tower resembling a man-made tree (monopine) in Roswell, Georgia. The location of the site, though planned inside a vacant lot, would be in an area zoned for single-family residences within a well-established residential neighborhood. Following an outpouring of public opposition to the tower, Roswell's Planning and Zoning Division recommended that the Mayor and city council, who ultimately approve applications after a public hearing, impose certain conditions before approving the application. Specifically, the Planning and Zoning Division recommended that T-Mobile should relocate the site to another part of the property, erect a fence around the tower, and plant pine trees to shield it from residential owners’ view. At the public hearing, city council members voted to deny the application.
Two days later, Roswell sent T-Mobile a letter notifying the company that the application was denied and referred the company to the minutes of the public hearing. T-Mobile sued Roswell and claimed that the city had not provided substantial evidence that would support a denial of the application. T-Mobile also alleged that, by prohibiting T-Mobile from building the structure, Roswell violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA). The district court did not rule on the substantial evidence question and instead held that Roswell had not met the “in writing” component of the TCA, which required the government to state the reason(s) for denying an application. The district court ordered Roswell to grant the permit, and Roswell appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that Roswell had met the “in writing” requirement by issuing a written denial and referring to the minutes of the hearing for the reasoning.
Does a document stating that an application has been denied without providing reasons for the denial comply with the “in writing” requirement of the Telecommunications Act?