U.S. Cellular wants to construct cell tower on county-owned land in city of DeKalb

On Jan. 3, 2023, DeKalb County Administrator, Brian Gregory talks to the Facilities and Technology Committee about U.S. Cellular approaching the county about an agreement to rent a parcel of county owned land and build a cell tower on it.

SYCAMORE – U.S. Cellular is petitioning DeKalb County government to construct a new cellular tower, officials said this week.

The cellphone company reached out to DeKalb County to inquire about renting 10,000-square-feet of county-owned land on Barber Greene Road in DeKalb for the tower, County Administrator Brian Gregory said this week.

Gregory spoke about the request at Tuesday’s Facilities and Technology committee of the DeKalb County Board.

Gregory told the committee he and Deputy County Administrator Derek Hiland sent U.S. Cellular a framework for any future agreement between the company and the county. County officials said they believe the request falls in line with what other municipalities that allowed cellular companies to use public land to construct cell towers have done to set rent and lease renewal terms.

“And so U.S. Cellular came back to us favorably and submitted a letter of intent suggesting they would like to pursue a road forward,” Gregory said.

According to the letter of intent, U.S. Cellular would rent a plot of land measuring 100 feet by 100 feet at 1826 Barber Greene Road for five years with 20 renewal terms, each for five years. Signed on behalf of U.S. Cellular by Missy Holcomb, the letter of intent proposed a monthly rent of $2,083.33 which could increase annually by 2.5%, the Dec. 2 letter states.

According to the letter itself, it is not intended as a contract and is only intended to advance discussions about the potential transaction. Both DeKalb County and U.S. Cellular can terminate discussion between the parties on the matter at any time, for any reason whatsoever.

During the meeting, Gregory told the committee the agreement could generate about $25,000 a year in revenue for the county, but he cautioned that the idea of an agreement between U.S. Cellular and Dekalb County is still in its infancy.

“I tell you this because we’re continuing our discussions with U.S. Cellular and I don’t want to necessarily go forward if there’s not interest in moving forward,” Gregory said.

“I would be in favor of it,” said board member Ellingsworth Webb, a Democrat from District 9 and head of Facilities and Technology Committee.

Webb also noted the rent would offset the cost of the life safety inspection services from Johnson Controls Fire Protection the committee had advanced during Tuesday night’s committee meeting.

With heads nodding from Facilities and Technology Committee members Gregory warned there could be an obstacle in the way of the transaction as the land itself, while owned by the county, sits within city of DeKalb limits.

“That being said, at the end of the day, once everything kind of gets bundled up, it still would be under the city of DeKalb’s jurisdiction,” Gregory told the committee.

A screenshot of a DeKalb County document showing the approximate location of a proposed cell tower by U.S. Cellular on DeKalb County owned land inside the limits of the city of DeKalb.