T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell, Georgia

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies TCA’s “In Writing” Requirement
Supreme Court of the United States, No. 13-975
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In this case, the United States Supreme Court clarified the TCA’s (Telecommunications Act) requirement that a municipality’s denial of an application to build cell towers be “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.”

The plaintiff, T-Mobile, applied to the City of Roswell’s Counsel to build a cell phone tower on residential property. The counsel sent a denial letter the T-Mobile the next day, stating that the detailed reasons for the denial would be included in the minutes. The minutes were not published until 26 days letter.

The Supreme Court held that the detailed reasons for the denial must be provided essentially contemporaneously with the denial; therefore, the City did not satisfy the TCA’s “writing” requirement. The detailed reasons do not need to be included in the actual denial letter, nor do they need to be contained in any particular form, as long as the reasons are stated clearly enough to enable judicial review. That Court reasoned that because an adversely affected entity must appeal within 30 days of the denial, and because the court will not be able to review the denial without understanding the municipality’s reasoning, the written reasons should be provided to the applicant as soon as possible after the decision.