Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cell No! DeKalb County Residents WIN Cell Tower Fight!

Note from GTCO-ATL:  It is disappointing that the Briarlake  group, primarily Ms. Byrnes, continues until the very end to make the battle about their school and none other, especially in light of the fact that parents from Brockett are the ones who alerted them about the issue from the beginning and worked to unite the county over the issue via Get the Cell Out - Atlanta Chapter.   

However, for the sake of the children at all the schools and the communities that would have been affected, we remain happy and content to read ANY good news about cell towers, especially about this END to a long and difficult battle.  

We remain concerned, however, that the good zoning laws that protected the public will be thrown to the side if new cities are formed by residents not familiar with this subject and what the county went through to get this dismissal of the contracts.  We urge you to continue reading about our plight, now being pitted against the Briarlake neighbors we once sought out in order to help.  Our new  blog about the push toward new cities is here:  SaveTuckerFromLakesideCity.blogspot.com.


No towers like this one for DeKalb schools after a four year
battle comes to an end!

Posted by  on February 2, 2015 in DeKalb News  at the Champion

There will be no cell towers on school property in DeKalb County.
That’s the result of a four-year legal battle that began when the DeKalb County Board of Education voted in 2011 to allow the placement of cell towers on school property.

In a Nov. 3 letter to the DeKalb County School District, a T-Mobile representative stated the cell phone company “is exercising its right to terminate” an agreement between to parties which would have allowed the placement of a T-Mobile cell tower at Briarlake Elementary School.

T-Mobile had an agreement to place cell towers on the properties of nine county schools. After the agreement between the school district and the cell phone company came to light in 2001, residents around Briarlake Elementary formed No Briarlake Tower LLC and hired an attorney.

No Briarlake Tower “contended that, even though the DeKalb County school system is exempt from the DeKalb County zoning code if it uses residential property for educational purposes, a cellphone monopole owned and operated by a private company is not an educational use, and therefore T-Mobile was required to comply with the DeKalb County Zoning Code,” according to a statement by the group.

Eventually, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners sided with No Briarlake Tower and denied a building permit to T-Mobile for the monopole at Briarlake Elementary and another school.

T-Mobile filed suit in federal court challenging the denial of the permits.
“The U.S. District Court of North Georgia granted DeKalb County a summary judgment in T-Mobile’s lawsuit regarding the cell tower planned for the Lakeside High School property,” according to a DeKalb County news release.  “Subsequently, T-Mobile canceled nine leases for cell towers on other school properties, which led to the voluntary dismissal of the second lawsuit regarding the cell tower at Margaret Harris Comprehensive School.”

“This is a victory for the children in DeKalb schools and the residents who live near DeKalb Schools,” said interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May. “The court’s decision is consistent with the county’s position that private actors on school property have to comply with the county’s zoning codes.”

T-Mobile also paid $5,400 to DeKalb County to cover court costs related to the litigation.

In a statement, Commissioner Jeff Rader said, “The decision is important because it helps limit exemptions to zoning laws intended to protect neighborhoods from incompatible development. Governments (federal, state, local and public schools) retain this important prerogative, but it should only be exercised to directly advance their public mission, not simply to generate revenue.”

Commissioner Kathie Gannon, in a statement, said she is “pleased with the federal court ruling and proud that DeKalb enforced this protection of our neighborhoods contained in our zoning ordinance.”

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“The cell towers will not be built on the school properties and the validity of our zoning procedures was upheld,” Gannon said. The “members of the Board of Commissioners believed the county needed to take an active role in upholding the county’s adopted ordinance and signed the letter urging the CEO not to issue the building permits.”

The Board of Commissioners will consider the issue of zoning for cell towers again soon when it votes on a new zoning ordinance.

“After considerable public input and a thorough investigation of relevant federal legislation, the current proposal would allow cellular antennas within or attached to nonresidential structures legally permitted in single-family neighborhoods,” Rader stated.

These uses would include houses of worship or other institutions that are legally permitted to be of sufficient height to make a cellular antenna attractive to a carrier.

“The new proposal would not allow the cell towers that were the object of the T-Mobile controversy,” Rader stated.

Stephanie Byrnes, a member of No Briarlake Tower, called the end of the legal battle “fabulous” and “just amazing.”

“I didn’t fathom that that could even happen and it did,” she said. “I felt confident that we would win. What I was concerned about was that we might win against T-Mobile but then another one might come along like AT&T.

“The law says you can’t have cell towers in residential areas,” Byrnes said.

“T-Mobile was going to try and get around that and they used the school board to try to do that—to try to get their towers in residential areas via the school property. That’s underhanded.

“The concern was that it would be a misuse of public land,” Byrnes said.

“The school system is [a] steward of public land. They are granted public land to operate in order to educate the children. The school board at the time…didn’t make a decision that put the kids first. They made a decision that put the hope for money first.”

Byrnes said the victory is “a huge win for DeKalb County.”

“We were fighting for the children,” she said. “That land is for the children. It’s not for private gain.”