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.