Federal Court Dismisses Crown Castle Complaint Against Rye, NY

Federal Court dismisses Crown Castle NG East LLC’s complaint and finds that the City of Rye, NY properly undertook a SEQRA review of Crown’s request to install dozens of mini cellphone tower’s throughout the City.

On Friday December 8, 2017, Judge Briccetti granted the City’s motion to dismiss Crown Castle’s complaint finding that the City did not violate the 1996 Telecommunications Act (“TCA”) when it rendered a Positive Declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

According to Rye Mayor Joseph A. Sack:

“This Order recognizes the importance of a diligent review process that includes a review of the potential environmental impacts of installation of small cells. The City considered varying points of view and to have Judge Briccetti affirm that we have acted in accordance with federal law is gratifying.”

The City made a positive declaration under SEQRA in April (a determination that required Crown Castle to conduct an environmental review), and at the same time issued a decision finding that if SEQRA did not apply to small cells, the City would have denied the application. In part, because Crown Castle chose not to challenge the validity of SEQRA in its Complaint, Judge Briccetti found that the City’s hypothetical denial was not an appealable “decision” under the TCA — instead, the environmental review must be completed.

Briccetti found that there is nothing in the TCA which preempts a local government from undertaking a necessary and thorough review such as the process that City has insisted on here.

The SEQRA review process is ongoing.

In its complaint, Crown Castle claimed that the City had violated state law as well as federal law. Once Judge Bricetti dismissed the federal claims, he found he had no authority to consider the state law claims and he dismissed those as well.

Mayor Sack also thanked Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson and outside counsel Joseph Van Eaton of Best, Best & Krieger for excellent representation in assisting the City to arrive at this point. It is not known what steps Crown Castle will take in light of the decision. However, dismissal of the suit does not end the ongoing SEQRA review.

Judge Briccetti’s Opinion and Order, along with all of the related litigation documents, can be found on the City of Rye’s website at http://www.ryeny.gov/crowncastle.cfm.