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Company sues Midwest City over cellphone tower [Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)]
[July 05, 2011]

Company sues Midwest City over cellphone tower [Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)]

(Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A national wireless communications infrastructure company is locked in a battle with Midwest City over a 155-foot cellphone tower it wants to build here.

The company, Florida-based SBA Communications Corp., has filed a federal lawsuit against Midwest City claiming the City Council voted down its plans to build a tower for AT&T wireless customers without cause in May.

Residents in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed tower site on E. Reno Avenue near N. Post Road protested SBA's plans.

Midwest City resident Norma Rutter has lived in a quiet residential area just off E. Reno Avenue for the past 36 years, about a block away from the open field where SBA wants to build the cellphone tower. SBA signed a lease for the land with a local church. Rutter and many of her neighbors signed a petition in opposition to the tower earlier this year.

"I just don't see the need for it right here in this neighborhood," Rutter said. "This is an old, established neighborhood and there are wide open areas not too far away from here where they could put it." Midwest City resident Allen Roberts said he is opposed to the tower because he is unsure what kind of long-term health effects radio waves from it could have on children in the neighborhood. It would also damage property values in the area, he said.

"It's such an eyesore, we would lose the curb appeal of our neighborhood," Roberts said. "The neighborhood feels pretty passionately about it being so close to all of our homes." The tower SBA wants to build would help plug a coverage gap for wireless customers in the area, the company said in its lawsuit filed June 23 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. AT&T wants SBA to build the tower to improve service for its wireless customers in Oklahoma County, but the tower would also be open to lease to other wireless carriers in the area.

"Without construction of the (wireless communication facility) on the proposed site location, there will continue to be a significant gap in coverage, and CMRS/wireless telecommunications carriers like AT&T may be unable to provide satisfactory and reliable coverage, including enhanced 911 emergency services, in this area of Oklahoma County," SBA said in its lawsuit.

SBA leases cellphone towers to wireless service providers across the United States and Canada, according to the company's website. A call to the company's Tulsa-based attorney Christopher Davis was not immediately returned on Tuesday. Lynne Hopkins, a spokeswoman for SBA in Boca Raton, Fla., declined to comment on the pending litigation.

SBA claims the Midwest City Council's decision to vote down plans for the cellphone tower flies in the face of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, which restricts the rights of local governments to halt the development of wireless communications infrastructure in their communities. The law states that local land use authorities must provide substantial reason for a denial in writing to wireless communication infrastructure developers.

Midwest City Manager J. Guy Henson said he was unaware of that SBA lawsuit on Tuesday and declined to comment further. The city had yet to be served with the suit to his knowledge, he said.

Attempts to reach Rick Dawkins, Midwest City Ward 3 councilman, whose district includes the residential area off E. Reno Avenue, were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

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