Municipal Communications of Atlanta is suing Columbus, GA, and its mayor and council members for blocking its proposal to build a T-Mobile tower to improve coverage in the area near busy I-185.
The lawsuit, filed in February, alleges the Columbus City Council failed to produce a written record of why a special exemption request for a 150-foot monopine on a 3.2-acre property belonging to the Columbus-Fort Benning Shrine Club was denied.
That lawsuit, however, took a unique twist last week when the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ruled that the Shrine Club may intervene as a party defendant.
The Shrine Club alleges that since Municipal does not own the property, Municipal was not eligible to submit zoning applications under a Columbus ordinance in the first place.
The Shrine Club further alleges that the lease between itself and Municipal is void or that the scope of the lease does not authorize Municipal’s conduct.
The federal court found that the Shrine Club, as the common owner and putative lessor of the property on which the cell tower is proposed, has “a direct, substantial and legitimate interest in the property that is the subject of this lawsuit. The relief that the community is seeking will have a direct impact on Shrine Club ownership.”
Municipal said in a filing that the Shrine Club would not be harmed if the property were repurposed. However, Judge Clay Land ruled, “The available records do not support this claim.”
Judge Clay also ruled that Municipal’s argument that intervention by the Shriner’s Club should be denied was unconvincing because the club can challenge the validity of the lease in a separate proceeding in state court.
“While this lawsuit may not prevent or preclude litigation of lease-related issues in another lawsuit, the resolution of those issues in this lawsuit could have some practical implications for their resolution in the state court lawsuit,” the court noted.