N. Fulton city continues fight against proposed T-Mobile tower

Roswell continued its seven-year battle this week to prevent a telecommunications giant from building a tower in one of its neighborhoods.

The city council unanimously voted Monday night to again deny a request from T-Mobile to build a 108-foot cell phone reception tower near Lake Charles Drive.

T-Mobile first approached the city about building a tower in the same location in 2010 and the council unanimously denied its request. But T-Mobile took the battle to court, arguing that Roswell was violating the Telecommunication Act of 1996, which requires local governments to state specific reasons for denying requests like the one T-Mobile made.

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After an appeals court initially sided with Roswell, the battle made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015, by a 6-3 decision, the court ruled Roswell had failed to justify its opposition to the construction of the cell tower. The Supreme Court remanded the case to a lower court for further consideration.

In 2016, the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta ruled that the evidence in the case had become outdated and ordered Roswell and T-Mobile to revisit the issue to determine if there was a significant gap in cell phone coverage in Roswell, and if new technology used through the proposed tower could fix it.

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At Monday night’s meeting, Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said the city has spent “close to $1 million” in legal fees on this case. 

An attorney for T-Mobile argued at the meeting that there is a “significant” gap in coverage and a cell tower near Lake Charles Drive would bridge it. The city and its experts have disputed that finding; and some residents oppose the tower that they say would lower their property values. 

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“My take on this is, I think T-Mobile has shown that a tower would improve coverage, but that’s not what I understand the issue is. Is there a gap in coverage? … To me, a gap means lack of coverage,” Mayor Wood said at the meeting. “I think y’all (area residents) have shown that you can pick up your cell phone anywhere in that neighborhood and get service. It may not be as fast as you want .”

The item isn’t on the agenda for Roswell’s next council meeting and it’s unclear if T-Mobile will continue to fight the city for the tower.

Representatives for T-Mobile did not immediately respond to the AJC’s request for comment.

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