State Supreme Court won’t hear Unity cell tower appeal |
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Jeff Himler

An attempt by SBA Towers to erect a Verizon Wireless cell phone tower off Arnold Palmer Drive in Unity has run its course in the state’s justice system, with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the company’s appeal of a Commonwealth Court decision that blocked the project.

The only course the company can take to continue pursuing the project is to return to where it started, by reapplying to the Unity Township Zoning Hearing Board for a needed special exception, according to Dan Hewitt, solicitor for the Westmoreland County Airport Authority. The authority, which has objected that the 150-foot tower would create a safety concern for air traffic at the nearby Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, is among parties that intervened in the civil case, in opposition to the project.

The Supreme Court rendered its decision last week . Township zoning solicitor David DeRose said Tuesday he’d not heard if SBA Towers intends to reapply. Pittsburgh attorney Joseph Cortese, who represented SBA Towers in the case, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Westmoreland County President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. ruled in favor of SBA Towers on Oct. 27, 2016, after it appealed the zoning hearing board’s denial of the special exception.

But the Commonwealth Court reversed that decision in February, following an appeal by residents who live near the proposed tower site in Pershing Park. Writing an opinion for the state court, Judge P. Kevin Brobson agreed with some of the shortcomings the township board cited concerning SBA Towers’ application and supporting evidence, but the court discounted other objections raised by the zoning panel.

Brobson wrote that the zoning hearing board had properly determined that SBA Towers and Verizon failed to provide evidence that SBA and Verizon were licensed by the FCC to operate communications towers and antennas.

He said McCormick should not have ruled that the township board acted improperly when it found that the zoning applicants didn’t provide sufficient evidence that the tower would meet FCC standards governing human exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

Brobson upheld other portions of McCormick’s ruling that were appealed. Despite concerns expressed about air traffic safety, Brobson noted SBA and Verizon provided statements by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Aviation indicating the tower would not be a hazard to air navigation.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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