COLUMBUS, GA (Georgia)WRBL) – The company responsible for the acquisition of property and construction of ancillary structures for T-Mobile filed a complaint on February 10, 2022 after it was denied access to repair a gap in the wireless pavement in Columbus.
According to court documents, T-Mobile noticed a gap in coverage near Interstate 185 and Edgewood Road. Municipal Communications III, LLC (Municipal) is building facilities and towers for FCC-licensed wireless operators such as T-Mobile. In order for the Municipal to build an antenna and a tower to close the gap in coverage, the company had to apply for zoning approval under the Columbus Unified Development Decree.
Within a one-mile radius of the area where the new antenna and tower were required, there were only three potential properties; Columbus Country Club, Clubview Elementary School and Richards High School. The remaining objects within the radius were single-family dwellings.
All the owners of the three potential hosts for the antenna and tower did not want it to be their property. T-Mobile then went to look for properties outside the radius, but in an area that would close the coverage gap. The only property left was the Columbus-Fort Benning Shrine Club owned by Columbus-Fort Benning Shrine Club Holdings Co. Inc.
The lawsuit Municipal claims they met all the requirements that must be approved by Columbus, however Mayor Skip Henderson and city council members rejected their request and refused to grant approval.
The municipality has filed a complaint under the Telecommunications Act, saying Mayor Skip Henderson and council members violated the requirements set out in the Wireless Regulation Act.
Plans for the new antenna and tower were first presented to the mayor and the Columbus Council on December 14, 2021. At this meeting of the city council, the lawyer of the municipality and the CEO of the company, as well as the radio frequency engineer T-Mobile spoke in favor of the new tower. They said that “reliable wireless coverage is a critical component of public safety, allowing citizens to make emergency calls and (equally) allowing public security personnel to identify citizens in distress.”
Several oppositions were expressed at the meeting, including the following set out in court documents;
- Possible negative effects of radio frequency radiation
- Aesthetic care of the surrounding area
- Possible reduction in property values in the surrounding areas
- Potential threat during severe weather; in particular the tornado
- Opponents claimed they already had enough coverage
- Residents of the area have released a petition with signatures against the tower
- The advantage is that the tower was in commercial territory
The proposed tower and antenna were again proposed to the Council on 11 January 2022. The municipal attorney argues that Columbus ’attorney did not properly file an application for resonance of this new antenna to the council because he was cut off by a member of the District 5 City Council with a motion to refuse. According to court documents, “Instead [Columbus City Attorney Clifton Fay] said the application of the special exception “was discussed” due to the rejection of the application to change the zone.
The full complaint can be seen below.