(CN) – City commissioners in Margate, Fla., were wrong to block T-Mobile from building a cell tower, disguised in a flagpole, at the Oriole Golf Club, a federal judge ruled.
Since T-Mobile has service gaps in Margate and the surrounding area, its customers there often experience bad service, dropped calls and busy signals.
To relieve service problems, T-Mobile proposed in 2006 to install a new wireless communication facility on Margate property in Centennial Park.
After city commissioners rejected the idea, however, T-Mobile worked with the planning department and entered into a lease with the Oriole Golf Club.
Though the city planner and city attorney approved T-Mobile’s application for a required permit, the City Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the application.
T-Mobile countered by suing Margate for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the commissioners’ permit denial violated the Federal Telecommunications Act.
Margate argued that T-Mobile should have to prove that the golf course is the only feasible site, but T-Mobile insisted that it simply prove that the golf course is the least intrusive option.
“Adopting the City’s argument would frustrate the foundational goals and purposes for which Congress enacted the TCA in the first place,” Judge Alan Gold wrote, referring to the act, which the Supreme Court found is meant to encourage of “the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”
“Denying T-Mobile’s motion under the City’s theory would promote litigation over cooperation between wireless providers and municipalities, thus delaying the deployment of new technologies and encouraging local governments to actually impede the installation of wireless facilities,” Gold added.
The judge found that T-Mobile satisfied both tests brought up by the parties. “Considering the entire record … in the light most favorable to the City, I can only conclude that the evidence supports T-Mobile’s position that Oriole Golf Park was the only viable location in the City of Margate for a WCF,” Gold wrote “There is also no dispute of material fact that T-Mobile also satisfies the ‘least intrusive means’ test cited by T-Mobile,” he added.
Margate also claimed that the tower would adversely impact real estate value and the safety of children, but Gold found that that the city did not provide adequate evidence for the claims.
“The City’s argument is simply incorrect,” the ruling states.