After a long and contentious battle on cell phone towers, the Everett City Council is getting disconnected.
Last week, Verizon Wireless filed a two-count lawsuit in Federal Court against the City Council for denying two cell notes on Woodlawn and Vaughan Streets at its June 8 meeting – a 10-0 vote in denial of the 5G nodes that Verizon contends violates federal law.
Verizon is calling on the court to vacate the denial, and to institute an approval and permit for the company to install the two 5G cell nodes.
Cell towers, nodes and antennae are a constant topic of conversation at the City Council and have eaten up hours and hours of deliberation as cell carriers have moved quickly over the last few years to expand their networks. Unlike some municipalities, Everett requires approval by the City Council of any telecommunications devices, and often these have been controversial and have exhibited pushback from neighbors.
That was the case on 27 Vaughan Street and 19 Woodlawn Avenue, and it resulted in more than six months of deliberations and discussions at the Council. After a COVID-19 recess from meetings, the Council met on May 11, but continued a vote on the two nodes until after a community meeting.
That “virtual” community meeting took place June 4, Verizon said, and had six residents and Councilors Michael McLaughlin and Fred Capone in attendance.
However, once back at the Council on June 8, the body voted unanimously to deny the two cell nodes.
That resulted in the strongly-worded litigation saying the Council violated federal law and didn’t have the right to do so.
Verizon also contends that the written record of the meeting minutes lacked appropriate discussion and depth and was not valid.
“The City’s denial of these Petitions ignores the overwhelming weight of the
competent and legally cognizable evidence before the Council on this matter that warranted approval of the Petitions,” read the suit. “To the extent any reason for the denials can be gleaned from comments of the City Council members at the hearing and during subsequent deliberations, it appears that
the City Council denied the Petitions simply because some residents opposed them and based on unsubstantiated concerns about RF emissions. However, under federal law, neither of those are valid bases for the denials.”
Verizon also indicated that at the May 11 meeting, they had a licensed expert there to testify that any emissions were harmless and well-below the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits.
Verizon attorney David Weissman said they don’t speak on current litigation, but did offer a statement.
“We believe it’s important that local officials follow federal, state and local law regarding cell sites,” he stated.
The City of Everett did not have a comment on the matter, but was in receipt of the lawsuit filing at its Law Department.