Some excited to sell, lease land for cell towers

With AT&T looking to add towers, land owners want to cash in on $2,500 to $4,500 a month

Staff writerDecember 22, 2013 

Cellphone towers are once again a topic of conversation in various Olympia neighborhoods. And while some neighborhoods are weighing the pros and cons of new cellphone towers in their midst, some people see an opportunity to make money by leasing their land.

Olympia resident Bette Hall wants to reach out to AT&T after learning the company is looking to expand wireless service in Thurston County. Hall hopes that leasing a parcel she owns in the Rochester area could generate enough income to support her mother’s care at an assisted living facility.

“I don’t have a problem with a cellphone tower,” Hall said. “Everybody’s got a cellphone, and everybody wants better service.”

Mike Thielen owns about 3.8 acres of property in the Boston Harbor area that he said would be a perfect location for a cell tower. A representative from AT&T would not give specific lease prices, which fluctuate depending on size and location, but Thielen estimates that a cell tower could bring in $2,500 to $4,500 a month, which is consistent with media reports.

“I can either sell the land or lease the land. I’m very flexible,” said Thielen, who hopes to connect with AT&T. “It’s a great location.”

AT&T is pursuing five to seven potential cell tower sites in Thurston County, said spokeswoman Marianne Bichsel. The company recently enhanced local service with an upgrade from 3G service to faster 4G LTE service.

“We’re making the existing service better by enhancing, but that does not preclude the need for additional cell tower sites,” Bichsel said. “That’s what we’re analyzing.”

Demand for wireless service has grown exponentially, especially as more people forgo landlines for cellphones. Almost 40 percent of U.S. households now use only wireless service, Bichsel said.

Bichsel said building a new cell tower is last on the list of options. Companies like AT&T first look at adding on to an existing cell tower or structure such as a water tower, she said.

The discussion on cell towers has resurfaced in recent months after Olympia’s Northeast Neighborhood Association raised concerns about a proposed tower on Roosevelt Elementary School. AT&T dropped plans for that tower in November and has since opened a dialogue with local neighborhood groups about future sites.

“We want to work with them and put towers where they’re needed,” said Bob Jones, chairman of the coalition. “AT&T folks offered to work with us on a collaborative basis. That’s a huge step in the right direction.”

The South Capitol Neighborhood Association is also engaged in the cell tower discussion, with residents seeking more information about a proposed tower across from Stevens Field near Lincoln Options Elementary School.

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