Excessive Antenna Application Fees Violate Reasonable Accommodations

The New York State Supreme Court has ruled that local municipalities cannot charge “excessive” fees in connection with applications for antenna permits filed by amateur radio operators.

The case, which originated in 2013, was brought by an amateur radio operator who sought approval from town officials in LaGrange, New York to erect a 70-foot radio antenna support structure. Because the town imposed a 35-foot height limit on such structures, it initially sought fees of more than $17,000 to cover what it claimed were its costs for consulting services required to evaluate the application. The town later reduced its proposed application fee to just under $6000 but also required the operator to provide escrow of $1000 to cover any future consulting costs related to the project.

In its ruling, the Appellate Division of the Court determined that the town overstated its authority by assessing excessive fees, and that it “cannot impose unreasonable expenses so as to create an insurmountable financial barrier to the pursuit of the project.” In addition, the Court ruled that the excessive fees violated federal regulations that require states and municipalities to apply “minimum practicable regulation” in the processing of amateur radio antenna applications.