November 30, 2012 By News Staff
Cell phone companies and places of worship are forming new partnerships -- by locating cell antennas inside church bell towers.
In Oakland, Calif., a historic church built in 1926 now houses an AT&T cellular antenna, according to an article in the Huffington Post, which also explains that churches are attractive sites due to their location in residential neighborhoods. Though most churches are not taxed due to their non-profit status, this mixture of commercial and religious elements has brought up new tax issues: "If church property is used for commercial purposes, such as leasing space for a cell tower, tax assessors must charge the organizations," the Huffington Post reports.
And churches leasing out some of their property for this purpose can bring in revenue. San Ramon, Calif.'s Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church, for instance, earns between $25,000 and $30,000 annually from a contract with T-Mobile.
The churches that make money from cell tower contracts typically lose only a portion of their tax-exempt status, but the relationship has caught the attention of tax collectors and county assessors, who in some cases have had difficulty spotting the towers. "Nobody can tell that they're there unless they're sharped-eyed and looking for them," Pastor Martin Scales told the Post.
An AT&T spokesperson said the company frequently works with churches to install camouflaged cell towers on their buildings, and attaching cell towers or antennas to existing structures is something T-Mobile also prefers to do, according to T-Mobile Spokesperson Steve Caplan.