As reported earlier by Westlake Revelations, T-Mobile sued the City of Agoura Hills when the City denied T-Mobile’s permit to install a cell antenna at Lindero Canyon Middle School. As is typical with these types of suits, unless there’s specific conditions to oppose under the Telecommunications Act, the United States District Court has awarded judgement in favor of T-Mobile. In other words, T-Mobile won.
The City of Agoura Hills has told Westlake Revelations that it will not be appealing the decision. The City also confirms that it will be granting the permit by today (today is the date by court order). No damages have been awarded, but the City will have its own legal defense fees, and possibly reimbursement of legal costs to T-Mobile related to this action. As of this writing, the City said that it has not been asked for reimbursement of T-Mobile’s costs.
When asked today, the City said that it does not yet have an estimate on its defense costs. In discussions with assorted industry experts, Westlake Revelations has been given estimates that it could cost the City of Agoura Hills $50,000 (more likely $100,000) for its own defense, and a great deal more than that to reimburse T-Mobile (if that becomes necessary). The smallest estimate was $50,000 and experts say that this can only be if the case remained very simple and costs were only for the City’s side. If the case was more complex to defend, and the City ends up needing to reimburse T-Mobile for their costs, experts say the costs could easily total $300,000 for the City of Agoura Hills.
With the granting of the permit, LVUSD is expected to fulfill its obligations to T-Mobile through a contract signed over a year ago between T-Mobile’s agent and the school district. With the contract already approved by the school board and executed by the District, only the implementation remains. As part of this contract, the antenna is to be installed on the Lindero Canyon Middle School, and in exchange LVUSD will receive $30,000 per year rental.
LVUSD is experienced in antenna installations. The Lindero Canyon Middle School site is the 8th installation: Agoura High School (4), Calabasas High School (2), Maintenance facility (1), and LCMS (1). The first antenna in the District was installed almost 10 years ago after the Columbine tragedy when there was no good coverage at the high schools.
To install the cell antenna, T-Mobile needs to do a few things. First, it needs the conditional use permit from the City of Agoura Hills, which will be completed by today. Second, the plans need to go before the state agency that oversees any building on school campuses. Third, they need to work within the school’s schedule to do the construction. An antenna installation such as this one typically takes 6-8 months to complete. In this case, because T-Mobile has already submitted plans to the state, it may go more quickly.
Details on Suit
According to Arent Fox’s This Week in Telecom:
“On December 20, 2010, the United States District Court for the Central District of California awarded judgment in favor of T-Mobile and against the City of Agoura Hills in the parties? dispute over whether the City violated section 332 of the Telecommunications Act by denying T-Mobile?s application for a conditional use permit. T-Mobile sought the permit in order to fill coverage gaps with an antenna that would be supported and concealed by flagpoles. The City?s Planning Commission voted to approve the application, but the City Council appealed the approval, and later issued a moratorium on any further discretionary permits for wireless facilities. After the City formally denied T-Mobile?s application in November 2009, T-Mobile brought suit challenging the denial as a violation of the Telecommunications Act?s prohibition against municipalities effecting an unlawful prohibition of wireless service. The trial judge granted in full T-Mobile?s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, which included a finding that T-Mobile?s proposed school site was the least intrusive and was a technologically feasible means to fill the significant gap in T-Mobile?s coverage. The court also agreed with T-Mobile that the City failed to carry its burden of showing that there were other, less intrusive, potentially available and technologically feasible alternatives. The court ordered the City to grant T-Mobile?s application within 30 days. T-Mobile West Corp. v. City of Agoura Hills, No. CV 09-9077 DSF (PJWx) (C.D. Cal.).”