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Small Indiana town sued for rejecting proposed cell tower

ZANESVILLE, Ind. (AP) – A company that wants to build a cellphone tower in northeast Indiana is suing a small town, alleging the Zanesville Town Council is violating the federal Communications Act by using zoning ordinances to keep a wireless communications facility out.

Town Council members oppose Skyway Towers’ efforts to declare a small piece of land nestled up against batting cages and a kids’ play area a piece of agricultural ground so it can build the tower.

“We’ve told them no twice already. I feel like it’s a big corporation trying to muscle a little town into doing what they want,” Town Council President John Schuhmacher told The Journal Gazette.

The lawsuit states that radio frequency engineers with Verizon identified a “significant gap” in the company’s ability to provide reliable service in the area of the Allen and Wells county lines, near Zanesville, which is about 20 miles southwest of Fort Wayne and straddles the two counties. Verizon hired Skyway, which is based in Land O’Lakes, Florida, to develop a wireless communications facility in that area.

Four potential properties were identified. Skyway officials negotiated a lease for piece of property owned by the Zanesville Lions Club.

The Town Council rejected the proposal in November and again last month. Schuhmacher said the only entities that would benefit would be the cellular service provider and the Lions Club.

A petition circulated throughout the community with 600 residents drew overwhelming opposition to the project, Schuhmacher said.

“It’s just not the right thing to do,” Schuhmacher said. “They are coming in and saying, ‘The law doesn’t apply to us. We’re going to take a square peg and drive it into a round hole.’ … With a sledge hammer.”

In an April 20 lawsuit, the company asked a federal judge to review the complaint, order the town to grant the application and issue a judgment that the town’s actions are in violation of the federal Communications Act.