To the Editor:
As a technology professional, I am excited about the creative and innovative idea of adding revenue to the city by means of cell tower leases proposed by Mayor Fung, especially with the growth of new 5G technology for mobile. I have worked in this industry in the past with both regional and international telecom and tower companies in the capacity of a technical operations manager.
What I am not excited about is the thought of deforestation of a 20-acre woodland parcel on Phenix Avenue for only $36,000 a year. That is a great value for the cell tower company and not so great of a deal, in my opinion, for Cranston.
My concerns regarding the tower site proposed are as follows:
Per news articles, it is reported that Crown Castle Towers 06-2 LLC, a Delaware corporation, would pay $36,000 a year to lease the tower site and access road. My initial reaction was, only $36,000? The average lease rate is $45,000 per year across the country for 5G. We can do better than that if we are talking deforestation and displacing even more wildlife.
I know there is a firing range there and the smart thing is to not have that area developed for obvious reasons. I know Cranston has roughly 81,000 residents and even with the surrounding towns, we are not hitting 1 million, but with all of the traffic with the commercial business plans coming into place, I can see the city getting much more income revenue for a tower, which leads me into my next point.
There are so many buildings that are dilapidated in Cranston or other buildings on higher ground that could really use the money for revitalization. I’d love to see these properties revitalized or developed as a community incentive. Many community churches, for example, lease steeple space for towers. Did you know cell tower companies usually pay $1,400-$3,000 to lease space on top of buildings alone, never mind a stand-alone tower with its own access road and any other potential outbuilding? Those fetch much more money.
Our wildlife is already displaced. We have coywolves, rabbits and rats running rampant in our neighborhoods. In the past, one of the things cities and towns have done to partner with stand-alone tower sites has been to put up towers disguised as trees.
Today, since 5G towers don’t require much power, they can be made relatively small. This is important not only for aesthetics but also for space efficiency. Cell towers today are so small, they can be positioned in ordinary places like on light poles, the tops of buildings and even street lights. This translates into less traditional-looking towers but also potentially more eyesores nearly everywhere you look. Some companies are even resorting to putting them under manhole covers.
I think Cranston has many options with 5G and I don’t understand the need for a 20-acre woodland parcel to be demolished. I think we can do better here if we investigate and negotiate our options with the tower company better. These 5G tower sites are in high demand by the tower companies as they race to fulfill the needs of the growing user base.
This issue will be brought up for a vote at the Aug. 26 City Council meeting and I hope other residents bring their concerns to the table at that time.