Sutton buys land for cell use
BY TOM REILLY
The Sutton Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a motion at their Nov. 16 meeting for the town to purcha se 6.08 acres of land for $24,000 – a Whittier Farms parcel on Town Farm Road, the future site of a communications cell tower for both public safety and commercial use.
Town Administrator Jim Smith said this has been in discussion since the Whittiers first proposed seeking an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on approximately 380 acres of their land. This land can only be used by the town for a cell tower/ public safety communications site and “nothing else. Those are the permitted uses on the land,” Smith said. The only approved use for this land was to improve cellular communications in the town of Sutton.
Smith said he hoped that this site could also generate enough revenue to pay for the purchase of the land and the APR.
One part of the agreement allows the Whittiers to reclaim the site in 20 years if the town was not using it as a communications site. Smith noted that it was possible that communications methods could change so much in that time that cell towers could become obsolete. The town administrator said that the process for reclaiming the site is laid out in the deed. Smith said that all of the restrictions went away after 30 years, though there was nothing to prevent a future board of selectmen and the Whittiers from extending the agreement.
Smith added that he incorporated into the agreement a provision that could allow the Whittiers to reclaim the land if there was nothing left on the tower but a Sutton public safety communications signal repeater. Smith said he had discussed this possibility with Fire Chief Paul Maynard and had concluded that “to maintain that site and the entire components as well as the tower and the electrical capabilities for [just] a repeater, seems excessive.”
He said that it made no sense to continue to operate such a massive site as a mere repeater facility. Smith said that he had agreed that the reversion could take place under this condition.
Selectmen thanked Smith for coming up with a creative solution to the town’s communications needs and for looking out for the taxpayers on this project.
Smith said he had gone into this project with two real goals in mind—improve telecommunications in Sutton, especially in the area of public safety and to find a way to pay for the APR. He said that based on preliminary discussions he has been having with cell tower companies— the entities that would lease the tower from the town and then sublet space on the tower to telecommunications providers—that he expected that the revenue goals would be met.
He said that after 20 years these goals would be met and that it was quite likely that the need for the tower could go away. Selectman Kevin Geraghty agreed that there was nothing much the town could do on that land other than put up a tower and Smith said this was something the Whittiers had been concerned about— the possibility that some future board might try to use the land for some inappropriate use on this six acre parcels surrounded on all sides by agricultural land.
The 20-year limit was one way of easing these concerns, said Smith.
Smith told the selectmen that he has already received three “very good” proposals. While no one has been awarded the contract yet, Smith said that Wireless Edge, a company based in New York, is the leading bidder. He said this was the one company that has actually visited the site. Smith said their proposal was for a base rent of $27,000 a year, with a space on the tower for four or five customers, each at ten-foot intervals.
The town administrator said there could be significant revenue possibilities in this arrangement. The company has agreed to place the town’s public communications repeater at the top of the tower. Smith said the base rent alone would pay for the APR and that there would be even more revenue should the company sell out the space on the tower.