Township, ATC File Court Documents

While work on the 60 poles has ceased, the fight is far from over.


At Wednesday night’s , Northampton Township solicitor Michael Savona gave residents an update on where the township stood in its fight against American Tower Corporation (ATC) installing 60 small cell towers on residential properties throughout Northampton.

The township has filed papers in U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia requesting a judge rule that ATC’s 60 Distributed Antenna System (DAS) units mounted on poles should be classified as cell towers.

If classified as cell towers, the United States Telecommunications Act would allow township zoning ordinances to designate where the DAS units could be placed, Savona said. In Northampton, an ordinance states cell towers can not be installed within 300 feet of a residence.

Last week, when the township pulled ATC’s work permit, the company complied and immediately stopped all work, Savona said. The township did not encounter any problems with ATC crews.

Days after the permit was revoked, ATC filed a motion in Bucks County Court in Doylestown stating that Judge Wallace Bateman find Northampton in contempt of the previous legal ruling in which the township lost.

ATC has requested the court to issue a peremptory judgment allowing its crews to resume work on the pole and fiber optic cable installation, which is more than halfway completed, according to court documents. The company contends that because they have been approved as a public utility by the state they should be able to continue to work in the public right-of-way.

“Being a public utility doesn’t exempt you from every township regulation,” Savona stated, referring to the fact that ATC has violated numerous township codes over the course of the project.

Savona said the township’s legal position is different than the stance it took during its previous 2011 legal battle with ATC.

“The positions we are taking up now were never raised during the litigation last year,” the solicitor said.

Members of the township’s legal team have met with officials in Harrisburg to discuss the legal ramifications of Northampton’s fight and how other townships facing similar problems in the state can learn from this.

Going forward, Northampton will work to improve its ordinances to make sure this cannot happening again, Savona said. Aside from ATC, there are nearly 20 other companies that install DAS systems, Chairman Frank Rothermel added.

Janet Swenson, one of the first residents to raise issue with the installation of the poles, thanked the board for listening to residents and for its current transparency with the legal filings.

“The people should give themselves a round of applause,” resident Bill O’Neill said. He also praised Savona for his work in fighting ATC.

A new group - Citizens of Northampton Township Against Cell Towers (CONTACT) - has been formed by a group of residents.

Through attorney David Truelove, CONTACT has filed a petition to intervene with the court and fight ATC alongside the township, according to a release.

Savona said he supports the residents' decision to hire an attorney and has been in contact with Truelove to bring him up to speed.

As of Thursday morning, no court dates have been set.


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Tim May 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Our supervisors seem to have grown a pair and are now fighting the fight that should have been fought months ago. Should we still vote them out of office at the next opportunity (if they win)?
Carmen Sense May 24, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I don't think you'll have to worry about the township winning this one. I'm not an attorney but from looking at the documents on the township's website and in http://northamptontownship.com/inc/documents/14/Motion%20for%20Enforcement.pdf and particular the letter from ATC to Savona dated 1/27/12 and signed by Savone on 1/30/12 I don't see how they can win. The agreement he signed was after the initial lawsuit from ATC stiuplating that the township would not pursue an appeal. So the supervisors agree to this until they were nailed but the citizens and then decide to change their minds. I don't see how that is going to fly. You can condemn ATC all you want but in the end all they did was propose an agreement that was beneficial to them and the supervisors bought it.
Don George May 24, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Carmen Sense... interesting perspective. Actually, Savona has rightfully made it clear to NOT pursue anything associated with the case that was settled. If you look at the recent filings, there's actually a different set of issues and that is the basis of the NEW matter. Please do NOT lose sight of the facts surrounding TWP legal matters, and the CURRENT Solicitor. On 03JAN2012, Hon Seamus McCaffrey, with much pomp and circumstance orchestrated by Francis Rothermel, swore in Kim Rose as Supervisor. Then, Rothermel, Cunningham and Rose appoint their new team of "professionals" to represent the interests of the Township. Among them, Savona, who is a member of the firm in which the judge's brother is a partner. In addition, apparently Savona serves as the treasurer for a PAC that only supports candidtates belonging to Francis Rothermel's political party.
Don George May 24, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Hon. Bateman hands down his decision and in January, the BOS gets advice from Savona that the TWP will lose an appeal and there's nothing else to do. This is the same day that Savona admonishes the Public at the BOS meeting to stop repeating things because "some of us have to get up in the morning and be back here for a meeting." (See the video!) A great group of respectful citizens forms what is now CONTACT, rallies the community and all of a sudden, the advice given by Savona seems to be inappropriate (at best). Apparently, there were/are other options. Either the political appointee solicitor gave bad advice in January or he's giving bad advice now. Time will be the judge!
James T. Cunningham May 24, 2012 at 09:50 PM
As previously explained to you on another site, Don, Mr. Savona advised the board based on information that was available at the time. Turns out that the previous solicitor did not provide Mr. Savona with ALL information pertinent to this particular case.
Don George May 25, 2012 at 11:16 AM
So inother words, as the Pied Piper and Rats of Hamelin scurry to point blame, the Solicitor did not do diligence, along with the BOS majority... Jimmy, you and Frank thought it very important to hold a special meeting involving a matter of litigation that has yet to be adjudicated on April 9th but failed in your responsibility to the citizens to inform them of this issue.
Don George May 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Perhaps a high quality investigative reporter should begin looking into a lot of things? Use of taxpayer funded resources for personal gain; domicile of elected officials; interference with an NLRB sanctioned election; threats to employees; substance abuse by elected official(s)... ladeladeda... the beat goes on.
James T. Cunningham May 25, 2012 at 11:38 AM
I rest my case. God bless, Don. Please get yourself some help there buddy.
James T. Cunningham May 25, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Nah, but maybe we can meet for happy hour. I'll buy you a cosmo or whatever it is you girls are drinking these days.
Tim May 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I think James and Don should be suspended for their abuse of the comment system. We really don't want to read their petty arguments.
James T. Cunningham May 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Something I said?
James T. Cunningham May 25, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Curious Tom? At what point did it become uncivil?
ingrid May 25, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Gentlemen, when acting like children your punishment should be equally the same - your recess time has been canceled.
Tom Sofield May 25, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Folks - Please keep the discussion civil and stick to the topic of the story. Any comments that violate Patch's terms of service will be deleted. http://northampton.patch.com/terms
Tom Sofield May 25, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Comment deleted due to TOS violation.
Tom Sofield May 25, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Comment deleted due to TOS violation.
Don George May 25, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Sorry! You are correct.
Don George May 25, 2012 at 04:37 PM
How 'bout dem cell towers?
Don George May 25, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Carmen Sense May 25, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Mr. Cunningham, Regarding civility, I address this to you here because you are the only member of the BOS posting here but this message goes to the entire board. Could the board please follow the guidelines for proper conduct they provide to residents as part of the agenda? In summary both sides need to excercise some self control so that when the thought of uttering a personal attack, snide remark or bringing up the past first comes to mind, stop yourself and conisider your own guidelines which can be found at: http://northamptontownship.com/resources/agendas.aspx?id=249 Now I know for some of you this may not be easy and most likely you will slip up. If you need further help you may want to take some time and watch a replay of the meetings to see how foolish you ALL look. I would think it would make you cringe. Good luck and God help us (the citizens). P.S. I have seen you yourself excercise control on occasion so I think there is some hope.
James T. Cunningham May 26, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Carmen, you are correct and I appreciate the feedback. I'm pleased to have such a forum as this to address questions/issues etc. Unfortunately given the personal attacks by certain folks on here I allowed my baser instincts to get the best of me. This is something I will try to keep in check moving forward. All the best.
William Powell May 27, 2012 at 01:24 AM
A supervisor term limit resolution was voted on at the last BOS meeting telling the citizens of Northampton they were not capable of making their own decisions at election time. This is another example of the leadership wasting taxpayers money and worrying about his own agenda. And one wonders how the cell tower problem was missed by the leadership? Remember November!
Caren May 27, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Mr Cunningham, or anyone who can answer this question... Exactly what information was withheld, and how was it pertinent in deciding whether or not to appeal?
Don George May 28, 2012 at 02:03 PM
You presume that there is/was leadership. Perhaps you presume too much? lol
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