Verizon Questioned about Forum Shopping for Cell Tower Sites

From the Associated Press: “Two state officials want to know if Verizon Wireless is putting cell towers on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River to avoid Vermont’s rigorous permitting process.” From Verizon: “Vermont has been very good to use (sic) over the last five or six years. We have not lost a local zoning or an Act 250 application in the last five years.”

Having zoned or permitted hundreds of towers over the course of my career, I can assure you that forum shopping (ie- the choosing of one jurisdiction over another due to easier zoning regulations) does in fact occur and it occurs often. Some of the carriers even require that the site acquisition agent includes information about the zoning requirements of any jurisdiction that falls within the “search ring”. There are questions about the time to complete the whole process and the perceived difficulty of each jurisdiction.

The decision of where towers go is not made simply on this distinction- instead a number of factors are weighed- including potential coverage, cost of procurement ect. If all things are equal between two different locations- the one with the easier zoning process will always be chosen first.

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