Buck’s Elbow Mountain Tower Lease



Public Hearing to Approve a Tele-communications Tower Lease on Buck’s Elbow Mountain



Messrs. Tucker, Elliott, Davis, Hanson, and Ms. Kim





June 3, 2009





  ACTION:             INFORMATION:   







The County owns a 120-foot telecommunications tower and tower site on Buck’s Elbow Mountain.  This tower hosts equipment used by the Charlottesville-U.Va.-Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center (“ECC”) as part of the regional 800 MHz. public safety radio system.  From 1996 to 2001, the County leased excess space on the tower and ground space for an equipment shelter to Charlottesville Cellular Partnership, the local licensing entity for U.S. Cellular Corporation.  In July 2001, the County renewed the lease for an additional five-year term that ended in July 2006.  Since the expiration of the lease, U.S. Cellular has remained on-site and continued to make payments according to the lease terms.  Payments for FY 2007 and FY 2008 totaled $16,348.29.


After obtaining a fair market value study from RCC Consulting, a firm that the ECC has contracted for various telecommunications matters, staff began negotiating a new lease in the spring of 2008.  The resulting lease, attached to this summary, has been accepted by U.S. Cellular.  Virginia Code § 15.2-1800 requires the Board to hold a public hearing prior to approving a lease of this County property.



Goal 1:  Enhance the Quality of Life for all Albemarle County Residents. 



In the proposed lease, U.S. Cellular agrees to significant retroactive rent increases for FY 2007 and 2008 as well as significantly higher rental rates for the new, 5-year term of the lease.  These increases reflect the fair market values determined by RCC Consulting; see Attachment A, Section 7 – Rent.  For the first year of the new term (July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009), U.S. Cellular will pay the County $24,189—an increase of approximately 296 percent from the annual rent of $8,174 for FY 2008.  In addition, U.S. Cellular will pay the difference between the new rental rate and the rate paid in years 2006 and 2007 as retroactive rent.  Within ten days of lease execution, U.S. Cellular will pay the County both the retroactive rent increases and Year 1 rent for a total of $54,124.71.  During the 5-year term, rent will increase by 3 percent each year.  Following this initial term, the parties may extend the lease for up to two renewal terms of five years each.  Rental rates for these renewal terms will be negotiated based on then prevailing fair market values for the tower space.


ECC staff provides the following information in response to questions raised by the Board at its May 13th meeting:


1.   While in the past, the ECC has received some inquiries from other telecommunications providers about locating equipment on the Buck’s Elbow tower, the ECC does not recommend permitting additional telecommunications tenants.  First and foremost, the tower is a public safety communications tower and must be maintained to serve current and future system needs.  U.S. Cellular has been permitted as a tenant only because it held a long-term lease beginning in 1996 that granted it options for additional terms. 


  1. No forestry generator exists at the Buck’s Elbow tower site.


  1. The proposed lease provides U.S. Cellular a 240 square foot non-exclusive ground lease for the placement of its equipment shelter and generator.



In addition to the $54,124.71 payment for the retroactive increase and Year 1 of the lease, the following payments will be made to the County in subsequent years of the 5-year term:

Year 2:  $24,915

Year 3:  $25,662

Year 4:  $26,432

Year 5:  $27,225



Should U.S. Cellular choose to locate an additional 10 foot microwave dish on the tower, the above annual rents will increase by the following amounts:

Year 2: $8,912  

Year 3: $9,179

Year 4: $9,454

Year 5: $9,738



After the public hearing, staff recommends that the Board approve the attached lease (Attachment A).



A – Proposed Lease

B – Lease Exhibit A

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