T-Mobile appealing tower decision

T-Mobile is asking a federal court to grant it the right to start building two cell towers disguised as palm trees in two city parks, one of which would stand next to an elementary school.

T-Mobile West Corp. filed an appeal Dec. 13 to override a U.S. District Court judge's denial of a motion that would have compelled the city to grant the permits for a 55-foot-high tower at Harbour View Park, which is next to Harbour View Elementary School, and a 52-foot-high tower at Bolsa View Park, according to public records.

The company argued that after finding the city in violation of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, it should have granted the construction permits, according to court documents.

The city suspended the permits after learning the construction costs were higher than estimated, putting them under the purview of Measure C, a City Charter provision that required at the time that certain projects with construction costs of $100,000 or more be put to a vote of the people.

The judge determined using Measure C violated the Telecommunications Act because it stopped the city from making a decision on the projects within a reasonable period of time, according to city documents.

"Having found that the city violated federal law, the District Court erred by denying T-Mobile an injunction compelling issuance of the permits," T-Mobile wrote, according to court documents.

City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said the city is appealing the judge's ruling that it violated the Telecommunications Act.

The judge gave the city 60 days to approve or deny the permits and put the decision in writing.

The City Council voted Aug. 30 to revoke the permits on grounds that a significant coverage gap wasn't proven and there are viable alternatives.

T-Mobile was originally granted administrative approval in 2007, but voluntarily stopped construction in April 2009 after residents found out about the projects and spoke out.

It later came out that the projects, originally slated to cost $60,000 and $80,000 to build, were actually going to cost about $200,000 each.

The city suspended the permits until a vote could be taken, but T-Mobile sued the city in May 2009.

The city put the issue on the ballot anyway as an advisory tool for the council, and residents voted against allowing the wireless towers in the parks.

Opening briefs are expected to be filed in March, McGrath said.

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