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My Cell Tower Lease Is Signed. What’s Next?

Articles > My Cell Tower Lease Is Signed.

Is your site the primary candidate? Within a Search Rings there are multiple properties that can be selected as possible build candidates because they meet certain RF engineering requirements. From that list, real estate contractors are then hired by the carriers to look for properties that meet those engineering requirements (elevation, distance from certain centers of population/venues/traffic, etc…). If you were contacted, that means your property appears to meet such criteria. There are subsequent criteria placed on the property, including zone-ability and constructability of a site candidate. Usually, three properties are selected and contacted by the wireless carrier’s tower leasing representative. In difficult locations and situations, we have seen 20 candidates produced from a single search ring for engineering review. Being just a candidate is never good enough for Terabonne or our clients. Our role is to get our clients’ locations to become the primary candidate. This is important because only the primary sites get built. All others are ignored and the lease may never get signed, or the option may never be exercised.

Terabonne Site Walk With Property Owner, AT&T Architect and Engineers Selecting Primary Cell Tower Candidate
Cell Tower Foundation Being
Poured On Client's Property

After you sign the lease, if everything goes quiet, then you are candidate B, C, or D. Everything going quiet means no phone calls, no emails, and no reports. You’ll get a sense that no one seems to know anything about your site. As impolite and unprofessional as it is, the common practice is that no one bothers to provide Candidates B and C with updates as to what is going on. We know this because we receive a lot of calls from property owners who signed cell tower leases but then nothing happens and they can’t even get an email or phone call response from their representatives.

On the other hand, if your cell tower or rooftop site is the primary candidate, wireless carriers must confirm that your property passes the volume of build criteria before exercising the lease option. At this point, Terabonne works with the wireless carrier to schedule a surveyor to visit your property to pinpoint the boundaries of the fence, road, utility and access easements. We also inform you when a drill rig will be brought to your location to take a core sample of the soil where the cell tower is proposed, and that soil sample will be sent to a lab to test compaction and such data will be used to design the tower foundation. A title report will be run on your property to make sure you own it without encumbrances and are authorized to sign on behalf of the ownership. We negotiate the location of the cell tower and bring you in on the discussion to make sure you approve the design and any changes required by zoning. Terabonne’s work does not end upon signing of the lease. In fact, our work is just beginning as there is much more to be done to assure that the site gets built correctly and timely for our clients.

A Phase I Environmental Study will be conducted on your property and the environmental engineer will look at the historical use of your property and visual cues on whether there are signs of environmental risks. If Phase I brings about concerns from the wireless carrier, then a Phase II will be ordered to perform a deeper review of the environmental questions. These reviews may bring up the question if environmental violations are discovered on your property, are you obligated to disclose this to your future property buyers now that you have actual notice? These are important factors we need to anticipate in the leasing process to protect our client’s long term interests.

The architectural and engineering (A&E) firm also needs to perform the tower design, electrical, and structural engineering along with the site layout, architectural drawings, antenna designs, foundation design, grounding, power and telco (fiber optic or microwave links), etc. The zoning drawings must be submitted to the planning review board to make sure the project can be approved when built as submitted. Often, there will be distance setback requirements to be met. A biologist will visit the location and offer his/her report. There’s also the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) filings to be conducted and submitted. Depending on the zoning of the property involving telecommunications and tower uses on your land, different review processes and duration may also apply. Most often, written notices must be sent out to all properties that are adjacent to the cell tower site. The cell tower zoning process can take 12 to 24 months to gain a decision, depending on the site’s location, land use laws, and the city council’s interest in approving such project (if the review process requires this level of approval). If a hearing is required, your neighbors will either show up to support or protest against the project.

There must be a separate set of construction drawings used to specify what will be built, where, and how. There is an independent review process that gets circulated to multiple city departments who will review the project before deciding whether or not to issue the construction permit. What happens if the construction drawing is not exactly where you want the tower/road/utilities to be placed? What’s your recourse as the property owner? If your consultant has never built a single cell tower or never worked for a wireless carrier, how would they know how to anticipate and protect your interests in these vital areas that will stay around for decades? Knowing how to read, revise, design, and negotiate construction requirements are crucial skills and experience every property owner needs from his/her cell tower consultantControlling the construction drawings is another area where Terabonne’s expertise shines for our clients. Not only do we make changes to the engineering and construction drawings that benefit our property owner clients, we negotiate in the lease a requirement that our clients must control and approve the construction drawings to ensure that the site is built to our client’s requirements, not just to the wireless carriers’ needs alone.

Cell tower development is a complex area of technology, real estate, and leasing all of which are combined on a small parcel of land on your property. This is why many of Terabonne’s clients are real estate attorneys, commercial developers, property managers, and corporations. These professionals know their fields well, and are experienced enough not to risk working in an area that requires even more specialties. Because Terabonne is where the professionals go to get their cell tower leases managed and negotiated, we recommend that those who are faced with the same opportunities follow the same approach to ensure the protection of their income and property.

Site Walk To Negotiate Engineering Designs

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A ROFR grants the tower owner the right to match an offer by some third party who makes an offer to purchase your lease that you accept.

Crown Castle, American Tower ATC, SBA Towers are the “Big Three” tower companies.

Attorneys retained by wireless carriers authorized to review legal terms but never allowed to negotiate financial nor technical terms of the lease because they lack the technincal skills.

A person who specializes in land use matters well knowledgeable in its jurisdictional requirements.

A person hired by the wireless carrier to contact property owners to discuss lease terms. This role has evolved to be landlord facing rather than lease negotiations.

Geographical areas depicted in a circle (ring) drawn by radio frequency (RF) engineers defining the areas requiring new cell towers and technical parameters surrounding such designs.

Companies who build towers and lease back to wireless carriers.  These companies almost always receive Search Rings from wireless carriers defining where carriers need towers to be built.

Radio Frequency engineers who specialize in the radio wave propagation. These are the engineers to define cell tower locations. 

Companies that purchase cell tower leases with the purpose of repackaging (aggregating) them in a larger portfolio and selling them for a profit at a later time.