City Council Combined Special Meeting/Work Session

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Meeting Date: 02/14/2023  
Co-Submitter: Dan Folke From: Bryce Doty, Real Estate Manager

Discussion item seeking direction on whether to consider an invitation for bid for a lease within the Cheshire Park expansion area for a Telecommunication Facility (cell tower).
The City staff in the Property and Development Committee as well as Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Events (PROSE) staff recommend not pursuing a lease in the Cheshire Park expansion area at this time.
City staff have received interest from companies wishing to install a 100' cell tower within the City real property identified as an expansion area of Cheshire Park.  Staff is seeking council direction on whether to solicit an invitation for bids to lease approximately 2,500 square feet of the property for such a site.
AT&T is looking to expand both its commercial cellphone coverage and its FirstNet program, a first responders network connectivity program, within the City of Flagstaff. A parcel belonging to the City of Flagstaff, Assessor's Parcel Number 111-02-006B has been identified as a potential site. This site is currently identified by City Parks for the expansion of Cheshire Park.  A concept plan was produced and adopted by Council in 2003. The Parks and Recreation Commission continues to prioritize this location for a multi-purpose field.  There are current and fruitful ongoing conversations with local partners to contribute funds to construct a joint project of a multi-purpose field with a community running track around it.

There is concern that a cell tower within the park, and the access it would require, will split the parcel and limit the ability to provide the multi-purpose field and track desired by the community. There is also concern that a cell tower site in a park is not compatible with park purposes in general. Because of these concerns staff does not support a cell tower on the site.

However if these concerns, and community concerns regarding cell towers in general could be adequately addressed, granting a cell tower lease at this site could provide improved service in the area for customers and first responders, and provide a revenue source to fund future park improvements.  Based on Average Municipal Land Cell Tower Rates in Arizona, Flagstaff could expect revenue of $22,500 annually with 3% annual escalators over the course of a 50-year lease, totaling $2.2 million over 50 years.

Cell tower sites are often located in public parks and at public schools in the metropolitan Phoenix area. The pole could be designed to resemble a ponderosa pine tree ("stealth" facility).  A  standard 100' facility could accommodate multiple telecommunication companies.

While the staff Property & Development Team opposed the proposal, it is an advisory group.  Past considerations of these types of requests have not advanced beyond the staff discussion.  In an effort to provide more transparency and offer a public discussion, Real Estate is bringing this item to City Council to receive direction on whether a lease should be pursued.

Should Council direct staff to continue in the direction of siting a cell tower on the site, staff will initiate the following steps:

1. Commissions: Take the request to the Parks and Recreation Commission for their recommendation, input and siting coordination
2. Procurement: Solicit an invitation to bid for a ground lease on the property. We would establish a minimum bid and incorporate additional requirements as directed (for example, additional screening requirements, lessor ability to relocate at lessor expense, etc.)
3. Public Auction: the ground lease would be offered to the highest responsible and responsive bidder only for the property and access rights needed to erect a cell tower.
4. Award of Lease: Staff would bring the lease to council for award.
5. Permitting: The use on the property is allowed subject to a conditional use permit. The ground lease would be contingent on successful approval of a conditional use permit.
Updated cell tower at Cheshire presentation


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