November 20, 2000
RE: Jurisdiction for Telecommunications Tower Siting
On November 20, 2000, the United States District Court, District of Connecticut, reversed a decision of the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) and ruled that Sprint Spectrum LP Personal Communications Services (PCS) "are a cellular system within the meaning of Connecticut General Statutes § 16-50(i)", and therefore the Council has jurisdiction over the siting of PCS telecommunications towers (See Sprint Spectrum LP vs. Connecticut Siting Council, Case No. 3-98-CV-33(AVC), Motion for Partial Summary Judgement held before the Honorable Alfred V. Covello, U.S.D.J. at the United States District Court, 450 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut). The implication of this decision is that the siting of all PCS telecommunications towers will be under the jurisdiction of the Council. Furthermore, other towers operated by carriers with similar wireless functions may also come under the jurisdiction of the Council.
The Council recognizes the diligent and hard work committed by many municipalities to promulgate regulations, establish telecommunications plans of development, and to process difficult applications. Indeed, the Council has supported and assisted in the review of many municipal regulations and provided technical support to establish plans of development. While there may have been a refinement in jurisdiction as ruled upon by the federal court, we strongly believe that these municipal efforts and supporting documents should be maintained and will continue to be useful; and should not be dismissed or abandoned.
Under the existing State Law, municipalities are afforded a right of pre-filed technical information and consultation with applicants 60 days before an application is filed with the Council. The municipality may conduct public hearings and meetings as it deems necessary. Both the municipal and applicant filings will become part of the Council's record if the applicant chooses to go forward with an application before the Council.
In the case that an application is pursued with the Council, the Council would establish a contested case proceeding before the public with provisions for discovery, presentation of exhibits and witnesses, cross-examination, participation by parties and intervenors, public statements from members of the public presented in writing before and after the hearing and orally during the hearing, and legal briefs and memorandum of law. The Council's decision would be made in writing, based on evidence of the case that was available for public review and cross-examination, and subject to administrative reconsideration and court appeal. In addition, the application would be served on all applicable state and municipal officials, abutting property owners would be notified of the application, public notice of the application and hearings would be provided in newspapers serving the community, and all hearings and meetings would be conducted in full public view after notification.
The Council is in agreement that municipal input and guidance is absolutely necessary for this process to work, and encourages full participation by all pertinent municipal officials and members of the community. Please be assured that the Council will carry out its responsibilities consistent with State law (see Connecticut General Statutes § 16-50g et seq.), and the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, while working in full cooperation with municipal officials and the public.
Below is the final page from the Honorable Alfred V. Covello's ruling regarding this case. Please note that this is a summary judgement and is subject to appeal. The State of Connecticut Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee is also addressing this issue and may consider legislative changes including additional measures for public participation and/or removal of all wireless facilities from the Council's jurisdiction.
Sprint Spectrum LP vs. Connecticut Siting Council
Transcript of the hearing held on November 20, 2000 (page 25)
1 MR. KOHLER: No, Your Honor.
2 THE COURT: All right. Well, based upon the parties’
3 agreement that that is, in fact, the case, and the Court’s own
4 examination of the Code of Federal Regulations, and the
5 applicable sections, and its amendments, the Court concludes
6 that the personal communications services represented by the
7 plaintiff’s product, are a cellular system within the meaning
8 of CGS 16-50(i), and, the Court would, in addition, observe,
9 although nobody apparently wants to agree with me, that the
10 towers and associated equipment that they use are, in fact,
11 that, and would be included therefore within the first phrases
12 of the statute.
13 But, since everybody seems to want to focus on this
14 cellular system, the Court concludes that that’s, in fact, what
15 they have. And, that, therefore, the Connecticut Siting
16 Council has jurisdiction over these people’s equipment. And, a-
17 summary judgment to that effect may enter.
18 I’m sorry to have delayed you, and that’s why I
19 accelerated it.
21 (Hearing concluded)