Self-Storage as a Cell-Tower Site: Pros, Cons, Laying the 'Groundwork'

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Enhanced emergency service is perhaps the most important benefit to your community. Your neighbors will benefit from your cellular site even if they aren’t a wireless subscriber. Most police and emergency services transmit via wireless communications.

Paramedic transport vehicles use cellular technology, which requires cell towers.  In the event of an emergency, wireless phones are often the only reliable technology.

Large and small businesses alike need wireless technology to flourish. A municipality with good wireless infrastructure will attract more businesses than a town with poor coverage. The trickle-down effect should yield higher, long-term occupancy rates at your facility.

Cell towers improve public safety, save lives, increase business productivity and provide a better overall quality of life.

Drawbacks of Cell Towers

Improper tower placement is a big issue. It's imperative that the proposed site not encumber any future development or in any way hamper your primary business as a storage facility.

The public is misinformed about the health effects of cell towers. The wireless industry has done a lousy job of explaining that cellular technology is not a health hazard. Would you be surprised to learn that your car alternator or computer emits greater electromagnetic fields than a cell tower? In fact, in a worst-case scenario, a cell site generally operates at levels equal to or less than one half of 1 percent of the allowable federal standards.

If a property owner isn’t properly advised during the cell-tower lease negotiation, the profitability of his site can be negatively impacted. Since the vast majority of lawyers are not wireless-leasing experts, even a good real estate attorney often will not catch things carriers slip into the contract. All cellular-site leases are heavily slanted toward the carrier, and there’s minimal wiggle room on most terms.

Attorneys often negotiate their clients out of deals. The carrier then goes next door or across the street, and you lose the additional income. Proper professional guidance is required to maximize revenue, reduce liability, and provide a mutually beneficial agreement for the carrier and property owner.

Attracting a Carrier

The previously mentioned options for obtaining a wireless agreement at your facility are all viable, but you need to be realistic about your site. For example, don’t waste your time if the site is a short distance from an existing tower, has environmental issues, is home to an endangered species, or is on a historical registry. And regardless of how you promote your facility to carriers, it’s imperative that you have a single point of contact to address any inquiries you may have.

First, confirm that your facility can support a carrier. Rooftop installations require 400 square feet of exterior or interior space, and towers need 600 to 2,000 square feet of ground space. Have copies of documents like property deeds and underlying ground leases, site plans or surveys at the ready. This will assist carriers in providing a timely design for the proposed equipment. If you operate more than one property, provide the carrier with a complete list for review.

If you’re approached by a carrier, don’t contact the municipality for its opinion. Carriers are experts at zoning these sites; leave any contact with municipalities to them.

Wireless carriers are actively seeking new cellular sites in all 50 states. In fact, more than 100,000 new cell towers need to be built across the country in the next decade. Self-storage operators who take advantage of this growth stand to benefit considerably.

Steve Kazella is the president of AirWave Telecom Property Management, a New Jersey-based firm that develops and manages cell-tower and rooftop wireless-communications sites. For more information, call 888.313.9750; visit www.airwavesites.com .

Related Articles:

Cell-Tower Lease Income for Storage Facilities : Tips for capturing this niche of long-term ancillary profit

Legal Perspectives: Cell Tower Leases and Your Facility

Ready For Your New Cell Tower? [Self-Storage Talk]

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