Buyout sought on Baker Field cell tower lease

By Meg Olson

Park district commissioners are considering a buyout proposal for their lease with the company that owns the Verizon cell phone tower.

At their August 13 meeting commissioner Bennett Blaustein reported that Landmark Dividend, a company that specializes in ground lease acquisitions, was “really pushing” to buy out the lease the district entered into with SBA Communications in 2011. SBA has also approached the district with a lease buyout offer.

The lease currently pays the district $1,250 per month and contains a clause for inflation adjustments for the term of the agreement. Unsure of the length of the term, commissioners asked secretary Lynn VanBuskirk to have a copy of the lease for discussion at their September meeting.

“We would get a lump sum,” Blaustein said, with initial numbers being suggested in the $200,000-$250,000 range. The land would remain the property of the park district and when the lease expired it could be renegotiated or terminated.

Blaustein asked commissioner Stephen Falk to look into the proposal with him. “It looks to me like it might be the right thing to do but I want to make sure it helps the community,” he said.

“I would go for a bird in the hand,” agreed commissioner Linda Hughes.

She added that having the money now could allow for future investments or to enhance the park system with improvements or land acquisition.

Blaustein said with cellular technology changing, the value of the tower could diminish in coming years. In 2017, he said, over 60 percent of Verizon’s new deployment was using small-cell technology rather than tower installations. “All of the cellular companies are starting to move to small cell technology and when they do they won’t need towers,” he said.

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