Is My Property Suitable for a Cell Tower Location?

We are constantly contacted by a party stating that my property would be perfect for a cell tower or a piece of rooftop equipment and the first thing we have to inform that party is no matter how good their property may or may not be there first and foremost must be a need for a cell tower before a such facility will be constructed. So if a cell phone carrier or cell tower company does have a need in your immediate area 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 and 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 can 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:

  • Adequate 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 1000 square feet available and will sometime want up to 10,000 square feet.  However, in certain circumstances a cell tower location can be as small as 500 square feet and 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 has to 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 on. 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 flood zone, or heavy tree cover and environmental concerns all of these cost a cell phone carrier or cell tower company concern but also money 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 will the site get approved by a local municipalities zoning/permitting board. As a result 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 being said many municipalities are now limiting the construction of cell towers to parcels that are zoned commercial, industrial or in some circumstances agricultural parcels can be used as well and even if a property is zoned favorably it may still have issues getting approval.
  • Topography: Just because you may have a property at the highest point in the county or city your property may still may not be suitable for a cell tower. Elevation of property is a factor but the property’s elevation is not the most important factor.  As mention previously, you could potentially own 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 if 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 as once you have been contacted by a cell phone carrier or tower you will be asked to move quickly but more importantly than that you will need to move smartly.

A cell phone carrier or tower company will first want to see they can reach terms with you and then that company will present and push hard a written lease form to the property owner for review. As this point the wireless carrier or tower company will start to push and I mean push a property owner to sign that agreement. They will state they have other options and they can change any terms. Our advice is: don’t 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 invite you to contact us to discuss this matter and 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.  

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