Flower Hill claims victory in ExteNet lawsuit

Flower Hill claims victory in ExteNet lawsuit
Flower Hill Village Hall. Mayor Randall Rosenbaum announced the conclusion of a legal battle with ExteNet that began in October 2019. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Flower Hill Mayor Randall Rosenbaum announced the end of a nearly three-year legal battle with ExteNet over the village board’s decision to deny its application for the installation of 18 small-cell wireless facilities throughout the village.

Rosenbaum read the prepared statement at the end of a monthly trustee meeting. During it, he reiterated that the village board provided sufficient evidence to support their denial decision.

“The village and its special legal counsel were able to successfully demonstrate to the court that the village board had reasonably considered relevant wireless siting factors,” he said, “including any alleged coverage needs and relevant aesthetic and siting considerations based on a comprehensive record [and] that there was substantial evidence for the board’s denial.”

ExteNet sued in October 2019 after the village board denied the wireless infrastructure provider’s application to build 18 cell nodes. These small wireless facilities would have been much smaller than the large, freestanding cellular towers that providers have traditionally used — roughly the size of a backpack.

The Federal Communications Commission requires the facilities to be mounted on objects like utility poles or buildings that are only 50 feet tall or 10% taller than nearby structures, whichever is greater.

The board based its decision on ExteNet’s failure to specify the exact locations of the proposed cell nodes despite village requests. The members also discovered that the application violated the village code and relevant cell nodes criteria, such as aesthetics, mitigation efforts, available alternatives, wireless service coverage and alleged gaps or improvements.

The plaintiff argued the village’s ordinance governing small cell facilities was discriminatory, prohibited personal wireless service and lacked substantial evidence.

Nearly three years of legal battles followed. But Judge Frederic Block of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled on July 29 that the village had acted within its powers under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“Improved capacity and speed are desirable (and, no doubt, profitable) goals in the age of smartphones,” the judge’s decision said. “But they are not protected by the [Telecommunications Act of 1996].”

ExteNet filed an appeal in August but later withdrew it. The case was terminated on Oct. 7, according to PacerMonitor.

Rosenbaum said Village Attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff will continue to track legal developments in this area and that the village board has also undertaken steps to further update its wireless code. Flower Hill will provide updates on the matter at future board meetings.

In an unrelated matter, the village board also voted to reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour and to prohibit tree removal on Saturdays at the meeting.

Flower Hill’s next trustee meeting will be on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.






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