At the July 16, 2018 public meeting of Doylestown Borough Council, the Council voted to authorize the Borough Manager and Solicitor to finalize a settlement agreement to resolve federal and state court litigation between the Borough and Crown Castle East NG LLC (“Crown Castle”). The litigation relates to Crown Castle’s proposed network of wireless telecommunications facilities in the Borough and Crown Castle’s legal challenge to the Borough’s ordinance regulating those facilities. The Borough believes that the agreement, once finalized, will be a fair and appropriate settlement of both the federal and state court litigation. This follows extensive negotiations between representatives of the Borough and representatives of Crown Castle.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Borough will achieve a substantially improved network of wireless facilities. The network will be smaller than previously proposed, will better blend into the community, and will better respect the aesthetics of the Borough. The network will have more stealth installations and will incorporate more design features that match the Borough’s existing decorative street lights. The redesigned network will minimize community impacts and will eliminate threats to the Borough’s most sensitive historic resources.
As part of the settlement, Crown Castle will abandon its challenge to the validity of the Borough’s zoning and right-of-way use ordinances. This will allow the Borough to apply its ordinance provisions to any other infrastructure providers and any future changes or expansion that Crown might seek. Under the agreement, the Borough will maintain the ability to limit the potential impact of future similar facilities.
The agreement also will result in Crown Castle abandoning its challenge to the Borough’s filing fees and contains monetary terms that will result in the Borough receiving reimbursement for its costs and a future revenue stream. Under the negotiated Right of Way Use Agreement, the Borough will receive fair consideration for the use of the Borough’s rights-of-way and property.
The Borough had to factor in a variety of additional considerations in approving a settlement, including the following:
- In June 2018, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an opinion that is a significant setback for municipal efforts to minimize the impact of wireless infrastructure. The court, in Crown Castle v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, held that Crown Castle could claim public utility status and seek access to the public rights-of-way just as other public utilities -- such as PECO and Verizon -- do. This ruling added considerable uncertainty to the ability of municipalities to have meaningful control over where and how wireless facilities are installed.
- The costs of significant additional litigation would be high and could pose a burden on the Borough’s budget.
- Many residents have expressed support for better cellular service in the Borough.
In light of all of these considerations, the Borough believes that the proposed settlement is in the best interests of the community.