By Alyssa Stahr – Inside Towers Special Correspondent
If Brown Rudnick and partner Ed Pare have one goal in mind when it comes to the tower industry—it’s getting approvals for their clients. For more than 18 years, Pare has been providing strategic legal and business advice to telecommunications, real estate, financial services, gaming and government clients at Brown Rudnick. Additionally, Brown Rudnick specializes in site planning; zoning board applications and appeals; due diligence on title and environmental issues; land use issues; asset acquisitions; and commercial leasing. In fact, the firm has helped acquire more wireless communication antenna sites than any other firm in the Northeast.
“We’ve probably touched, between the carriers and the tower companies, four to five thousand sites, either for additional installations, or modifications, or relocations,” Pare said. “Our approach is to be very much a partner with either the tower company, the carrier or whatever client we’re representing to put together the best case and to be as forthright as possible.”
Pare seeks to avoid litigation and to get approvals for clients such as AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as middle-market and emerging companies. He prides himself on being upfront with outstanding presentations while avoiding getting denials or having a site go to litigation.
“You also don’t want to be at odds with the municipalities. We’re firm with our approach, but the goal is to get the sites approved. That’s [litigation] very expensive; the municipalities aren’t happy about it, obviously the client is not as happy spending additional sums so that’s what we do,” Pare said. “At each site we prepare a game plan; we then execute that plan we provide for any distractions that come up or any issues that might arise and try to move the site forward to get approval.”
Some of the more common scenarios Pare sees with towers are residential area conflicts with public opposition, including visibility, aesthetics and health concerns, which he said typically are overarching issues when it comes to denials or working through a difficult site. He likes to take a transparent approach in front of boards, readily acknowledging that a tower is likely to be a piece of steel that is going to rise above the tree line to be effective. On the other hand, however, he noted that towers provide a valuable service, both regarding public safety and with consumers who are demanding more data usage than ever before.
“I think the health issue is a difficult issue because people get personally tied to it, and it can bring about some emotion,” he said. “What we try to do is demonstrate that we not only meet, but exceed the safety multiples that are built into the FCC regulations with respect to emissions.”
Pare does this by presenting reports and factual hard evidence on the impact of a site and the emissions from the antennas that are being attached to the tower.
“We try to use good, solid information to educate folks for those who want to listen. There are times where that’s just not going to happen, you’re not going to convince someone. So you be respectful, you respond to all of the questions, you resolve the issues to the extent you can. Then you request a decision. It can be very difficult at times,” he said.
Brown Rudnick also focuses on sustainability as a firm, minimizing the paper trail at meetings as much as possible, using emails, PowerPoint presentations and digital means as much as possible.
“In the firm we try to be conscious about how much we have to print and how can we reduce printing. In dealing with municipalities I find that we can also talk about using PDFs, using powerpoint presentations, instead of delivering 20 paper copies of a 200-page brief to submit it to zoning, maybe we can do a PowerPoint presentation that can be shared among the members,” he said. “I’m also a big proponent of being transparent at these hearings, so I will get email addresses, use internet sites, look at our photo simulations, look at our balloon tests, look at our plans, look at the evidence that we’re submitting without having these multitudes of reams of paper.”
Pare’s goals for the second half of 2016 include educating municipalities and government officials with respect to small cell and DAS, areas that he thinks are cutting edge as far as implementation into the field.
“Up here in the Northeast it hasn’t been as widespread as maybe in some other areas. There’s been some use of internal DAS systems, some external DAS systems, but the small cell is something that the carriers are really going to target so they can pick up and provide that capacity for the consumers in a very localized fashion,” he said. “I think it’s going to be important as these devices go up on utility poles right in front of people’s houses, getting that education out there, just like over the years we did with macro sites. We’ve begun talking with municipalities to explain what it’s about, what kind of permitting processes make sense, so we get rapid deployment that the FCC is really pushing out there.”
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