FCC Orders Landowner to Remove Abandoned Tower
In a surprise ruling, the FCC determined that a landowner was responsible for removing a 375’ guyed tower on their property after the broadcaster that built it (and subsequent broadcast owners) failed to do so. Because the tower exceeds 200’, it is required to be lit for aircraft safety. However, the tower lights apparently had been off along with the power since 2005. The previous property owner had entered into an easement allowing the tower on the property in return for $12,000/year.
However, it doesn’t appear that the broadcaster paid it for very long. The property was sold but the new landowner never received any revenue. Nonetheless, after the FCC was unable to find the tower owner, it was determined to be abandoned and the new property owner was ordered by the FCC to remove the tower. This likely cost $50,000 or more and I suspect that landowner had no idea that they would have to personally remove the tower.
This is why many municipalities require a removal bond for towers – because of the possibility that the tower owner goes under and does not remove the tower. For private cell tower ground leases, it may be difficult to convince the tower owner to pay a removal bond. However, there should still be strong removal language within the lease that requires the tower owner to remove the tower within 90 days of the termination or expiration of the lease. We also suggest requiring removal of anything above 3’ below grade so that the property and land can be used in the future without concern about running into the foundation.
If you care to see how guyed towers are taken down, see this video on YouTube.