We are constantly contacted by property owners stating that their property would be perfect for a cell tower or a piece of rooftop equipment. The first thing property owners should realize is that there must be a need for a cell tower first, regardless of the property’s prime location. If a cell phone carrier or cell tower company does have a need in your immediate area, then what makes a property suitable for the placement of a cell tower?
The first requirement for a property is that it must be inside what is commonly known as a “search ring”. A search ring is an area designated by a cell phone carrier that shows where they need to place a cell tower. The size and shape of a search ring varies depending upon many factors, including the topography of the area, the population density of the area, as well as any federal, state or local restrictions that surround the particular search area.
If your property does fit within a search area, then the next step is to see if your property meets some other standard criteria that most cell phone carriers or tower companies are looking to meet before they commit several hundreds of thousands of dollars to the development of a cell tower site. The following are some of the characteristics that a cell phone carrier or cell tower company are looking for in a potential cell tower site:
- Adequately Available Vacant Land: A potential cell tower site must meet certain size requirements. A cell phone carrier or tower company is usually looking to get as much space as possible, due to the desire to add subtenants to the site. These companies normally look for a site that is going to have at least 1,000 square feet available and will sometimes want up to 10,000 square feet. However, in certain circumstances, a cell tower location can be as small as 500 square feet. A property owner should try to limit the amount of space used by a tower company for many reasons.
- Construction Expenses: When a cell phone carrier or cell tower company looks to choose a site for the placement of a cell tower, it must weigh the cost of construction based on the characteristics of an available property. A cell phone carrier or tower company will favor a property that will be less expensive to construct upon. Certain conditions that can negatively impact a site being selected are: significant distance of the site from a public road, the property being located in a flood zone, or heavy tree coverage and environmental concerns. All of these cost a cell phone carrier or cell tower company money, and are causes for concern, which will negatively impact the chances a site will be selected.
- Access to the Tower: Cell phone carriers and tower companies are always concerned about access to a cell tower, so a parcel that has easy access to a public road is preferable. If this access is not available, access roads will have to be constructed to the site, which costs the cell phone carrier or cell tower company substantially.
- Zoning & Permitting: One of the most important factors in determining if a property is really suitable for the construction of a cell tower is if the site will be approved by local municipalities zoning/permitting board. A correctly zoned property and a location being located in a cell tower friendly city or county can save a cell phone carrier time and money. That said, many municipalities are now limiting the construction of cell towers to parcels that are zoned in commercial, industrial, and, in some circumstances, agricultural parcels. Even a property zoned favorably may still have issues getting approval.
- Topography: Just because you have a property at the highest point in the county or city does not mean your property is suitable for a cell tower. Elevation of property is a factor, but the property’s elevation is not the most important factor. As mentioned previously, you could potentially own a property that is the highest point in the city, county, or even state, but if that property is not in a search ring, it will not be selected, as location means more than elevation. A cell tower company can always add height to a tower, but it is always limited when it comes to location of the site.
Having proper information and counsel is important if you are contacted to place a cell tower of on your property. Once you have been contacted by a cell phone carrier or tower, you will be asked to move quickly, but, more importantly, you need to move smartly.
A cell phone carrier or tower company will first want to see if they can reach terms with you, and then that company will present and push hard a written lease for you to review. They will state they have other options and they can change any terms. Our advice is: do not sign unless you know exactly what the “True Value” of your property is, and not only what you are getting, but what you also may be giving up.
If you have been contacted by a cell phone carrier or tower company who is looking for a location for its cell tower, Vertical Consultants invites you to contact us to discuss this matter and find out how you can truly optimize this situation. We not only provide you with guidance through this process, but we will work on your behalf to help you optimize it as well.