Port commissioners to vote on new cell tower lease

Port of South Whidbey officials will hold a special meeting Wednesday to vote on a lease agreement with AT&T so the telecommunications company can put up a cell tower on the port’s Possession Point property.

The proposed cell tower has been bitterly opposed by neighbors, who have previously offered to buy the land, and others who use the popular Dorothy Cleveland Trail that crosses the property. The cell tower has been supported by emergency responders, however, and port officials who have said the port should not be financing upland parks.

A potential lease has been talked about since 2009. This past summer, port commissioners agreed to restart talks with AT&T and sent a draft lease to the company after efforts to sell the 14-acre property came up short.

Port Finance Manager Ron Rhinehart said the proposed lease would run for five years, and be renewable for a total of 20 years.

Payments would start at $1,100 per month — the original lease carried a proposed rent of $750 a month — and includes a 3-percent increase in later years.

The benefits to the port are mostly financial.

“We get a reliable revenue stream that will help us with the maintenance of the property and will lessen our reliance on property tax revenues,” Rhinehart said.

The lease amount will also increase if AT&T shares the tower with other telecommunications companies.

Rhinehart said ICOM, the 911 dispatch center, would have access to the tower without charge.

“That should have a substantial impact on their ability to service the south end of the island,” he said.

The lease would cover a 40–by-40-foot area, and the use of the property for a cell tower would not impede access to the Dorothy Cleveland Trail, Rhinehart said.

The proposed lease was not available for public review early this week. Port Clerk Molly MacLeod-Roberts said copies of the contract would be available at the meeting.

The meeting is 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28 in the conference room at the port office at 1804 Scott Road, Freeland.