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Germantown Cell-Bell Tower is County One-of-a-Kind

The structure at Trinity United Methodist Church will help serve cell phones, Internet tablets and even chime hymns.

A hybrid cell tower that will also serve as a computerized church bell tower in Germantown would be the first of its kind in Montgomery County, according to county telecommunications officials.

Trinity United Methodist Church, at Clopper and Germantown roads, has leased land to Verizon Wireless to build the 110-foot tower, Patch reported on Monday.

While there is at least one church with cell antennas attached to its current building, Trinity's tower would be the only local free-standing cell tower that doubles as a bell tower, according to Marjorie Williams, chairwoman of the county committee in charge of approving cell phone towers.

Williams said 10 to 15 percent of the county's 220 telecom towers were considered “camouflaged,” or made to look like something else. 

“People aren't really thrilled when they see a straight tower go up or a monopole,” Williams said. “If it can be disguised, we try to require the companies to disguise them.”

She said flag and "tree" poles were the most common forms of telecomm camo. The Trinity tower will chime the time, and on Sundays, call worshippers with hymns.

The tall white beams of Trinity’s new bell tower are already visible to drivers approaching the church’s perch atop a hill at Clopper and Germantown roads. Church officials said the new bell tower could be completed within the next couple of weeks.

Funds from the lease payments would go toward church ministries, Pastor James Miller told Patch last week.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said the tower being built at Trinity would help expand its mobile broadband coverage for smart phone and tablet users. Hardware and equipment would be covered up by screens, Verizon officials said.

Dave Niblock, a senior permitting services specialist, said the county has issued a permit for Trinity’s new bell tower, but as of yet, no cell carrier had applied for a building permit to locate on it.

In describing the general permitting process for building a cell tower, Niblock said an application could be made to put telecommunication equipment on a tower “if or once a structure exists.” 

Williams said that all cell towers and antennas must be approved by the county’s tower committee.

“We usually go with what the landowner wants,” Williams said.

C.C. October 17, 2012 at 02:15 PM
When is this thing going to be ringing?
Fran Asbeck October 17, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Real bells, or tacky electronic counterfeits?
Steve Smith October 18, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I don't remember anyone asking the community if they want such a monster cell tower there. How much more trashy can they get? What an ugly monstrosity.
Barbara October 22, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I can see a religious war coming already
Tim October 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
The tower is enormous and hideous. Not a good combo! If anything it constitutes a giant billboard for the church. Nothing against the church or its parishioners, but the "bell tower" is so out of scale it is ridiculous. I can't stand driving past it every day to and from work. Who is their right mind approved this? I certainly know the community didn't.
STEVE SMITH October 25, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I contacted our Councilman Craig Rice's office to voice my concern and an inquiry on how he can help get the tower removed. This is the response from his Senior Legislative Aid: "Thank you for your email. While we understand that everyone may not be a fan of the tower as long as the property owner has followed proper procedure to obtain a permit to have the tower on their property there is very little that the county can do. I will certainly pass along your complaint." I responded back but have heard no reply. My question to their response is, doesn't the County approve the permit? My concern wasn't that they followed proper procedure in obtaining the permit (that's a red herring). My concern is the County could allow them to put an eyesore such as this tower in my neighborhood without some sort of community approval. I would think zoning would have been a problem. I know its 110 ft tall, but its sitting up on a hill that makes it appear more than twice that size. It seems MoCo has so many regulations about other things, but according to Marjorie Williams, the Chair of the Montgomery County Tower Committee "We usually go with what the landowner wants". This smells of political influence or corruption which either way is a disservice to the residents of Germantown. This would not be acceptable in Potomac or Bethesda - it should not be acceptable in Germantown because they do what the landowner wants as long as they follow the proper procedure.

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