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Stanly commissioners sued by Verizon regarding cell tower construction

The construction of cell phone towers in Stanly County by Verizon Wireless will soon be taken up by a federal court.

On Friday, attorneys representing Cellco Partnership, a subsidiary of Verizon, filed a federal lawsuit in North Carolina Middle District against Stanly County and its Board of Commissioners.

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners denied a request by Charlie and Patricia Almond May 17 to rezone a portion of their property on McLester Road for a cell tower. (For more on the board’s decision, follow this link to a previous story on it: https://www.thesnaponline.com/2021/05/18/request-for-rezoning-proposed-mclester-cell-tower-fails/ )

Friday’s lawsuit said the company is looking for injunctive relief from the county for an “unlawful denial” of the tower’s construction.

The suit states: “Federal law and policy favor the rapid development of wireless communication infrastructure in order (to) facilitate providing wireless service to the public.”

Verizon also alleges in the suit the proposed tower would “remedy significant gaps in its wireless coverage in the surrounding area.” The tower, the suit said, would “meet skyrocketing customer demand for increased capacity and new and improved services.”

Quoting the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA), the suit alleges Stanly’s denial “violated the federal law embodied” in the act. The suit further says the county “did not provide any explanation or support for the denial, much less support it with substantial evidence in a written record.”

The lawsuit states Stanly violated Section 332 of the TCA. In Section 332, the act states: “Any decision by a state or local government or instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.”

In the TCA, the act also denies local government the right to regulate construction of a tower based on “the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.”

Verizon states in the facts section of the suit that “a significant gap” exists in the company’s ability to provide coverage around Oakboro and along N.C. Highway 24-27.

The company filed a petition to the county but contends Verizon “was never provided with notice that the Petition was incomplete, deficient or otherwise failed to meet the requirements of the (local) Ordinance.”

Verizon also in the suit alleges a letter received from the county “does not list any grounds for denial.”

County Manager Andy Lucas said he was “unable to comment about any ongoing litigation to which the County is a part.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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