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Industrial Communications & Electronics, Inc. v. Town of Alton

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20186
Nos. No. 10-1738, (1st Cir., 05/19/2011)

The First Circuit held that property owners have standing to challenge a settlement agreement entered into between a town and a telecommunications company over the construction of a 100-foot cell phone tower. The town board initially denied the company's application for a zoning variance. The company then filed suit against the town in federal court. The property owners intervened in the case and stood silent as the town defended the case. But then the town and company negotiated a settlement that vacated the board's denial and granted the company's application to build a tower without further meetings or hearings. The owners opposed the agreement, but the lower court concluded that they did not raise any claims a federal court was empowered to address and entered as a judgment the consent decree proposed by the company and town. But intervenors can continue to litigate after dismissal of the party who originated the action if they can show that they have standing. Here, the property owners colorably claim protectable economic and other interests that will be directly impaired by the construction of a tower. They also have a legal interest under state law in the protection that the zoning laws afford to their property: specifically, they could sue in state court to overturn the variance if it were granted unlawfully. The court, therefore, vacated and remanded the lower court's decision dismissing their claim for lack of standing.