Two Recent Court of Appeals' Cases Dealing with Cellular Towers
By Katherine Zalantis1
Chambers v. Old Stone Hill,. 1 N.Y. 3d 424, 806 N.E.2d 979, 774 N.Y.S.2d 866 (2004).
In a case of first impression, the Court of Appeals in Chambers v. Old Stone Hill,2 established that the Telecommunications Act of 19963 does not trump the rights of private landowners to enforce restrictive covenants. At issue was the construction of a wireless telecommunications facility consisting of a 120-foot monopole (along with a 660-square-foot two-story equipment building and commercial parking lot) (the "Facility") in the middle of a rural section of the Town of Pound Ridge, New York surrounded by single family homes. The Supreme Court determined,4 as affirmed by the Appellate Division,5 that the restrictive covenant at issue prohibited the Facility's construction. And in a six to one decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed both lower court decisions.6
The Facility was constructed on defendant-developer Old Stone Hill's land, which land was burdened by a covenant restricting use of the property to single family homes. Plantiffs are landowners and homeowners whose property is benefited by the restrictive covenant. Old Stone Hill subdivided and developed a larger parcel for single family resedential use and actually sold one parcel of land to two of the Plantiffs (the Chambers). Thereafter, Old Stone Hill abandoned the development of single family homes and entered into a lease with defendant Verizon to place the Facility in close proximity to Plantiffs' homes.