Appellate Court Affirms Cell Tower Decision
Ruling upholds rights of local residents to oppose cell tower construction.
A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling filed Monday means AT&T will not be building a "monopole" cell tower near the Masonic Lodge on Fort Hunt Road.
Though more cell phone tower applications in Fairfax County have been accepted than have been rejected, the case has reaffirmed the power of a vocal minority to put a stop to construction of telecommunications infrastructure in their neighborhoods.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision upholding a decision by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to prevent construction of a cell phone tower. The appellate court filed the ruling Monday in the case of New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC, d/b/a AT&T Mobility v. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
In a statement, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland said, “This decision helps make the matter settled law that communities are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the location of telecommunication facilities.”
The case stems back to 2009, when the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended Cingular's proposal to construct an 88-foot monopole designed to look like a tree near Masonic Lodge to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. But local residents said that the proposed pole could depress local property values, and that the facility was not in harmony with local zoning laws.
The Board denied Cingular's request by a 6-2 vote, prompting the original lawsuit. In November 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria issued a ruling upholding upheld the rights of local residents to oppose land permit applications for the construction of cell phone towers.
The lower court found that the Board of Supervisors had reached a "reasonable decision" to deny Cingular's land use application based on community opposition.
Cingular subsequently appealed the decision.