Section Review

Section Review

Radio antennas: Federal law restricts the power of local zoning authorities to challenge their siting

In Champion Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Gerst, 13 Mass. Land Ct. Rptr. 443, 2005 Mass. LCR LEXIS 103 (Aug. 17, 2005, Trombly, J.), the Land Court held that the Federal Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S. Code §§ 151 et seq., gives the Federal Communications Commission exclusive jurisdiction over technical matters related to radio broadcasting. Relying mainly on this ruling, the Land Court annulled the denial by the Newton Board of Aldermen, sitting as the special permit-granting authority, of the application of three broadcasters to replace two existing AM radio antennas in Newton’s Oak Hill Park neighborhood with five new AM radio antennas. The court explored several issues of potentially broad application in Massachusetts zoning cases, including: federal pre-emption in the broadcasting field; the difference between the judicial review of local zoning decisions affecting broadcasting facilities compared with the judicial review of zoning decisions affecting cell phone facilities; and the responsibility of conservation authorities for deciding environmental issues arising in the context of zoning proceedings.
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