County Planning Board members will hear testimony Thursday on a plans for a 116-foot cellular telephone antenna pole for downtown Clarksville -- nearly three times as high as regulations permit.
The pole would be the third structure built in the county by Southwest Bell Mobile Systems Inc., which operates the Cellular One telephone system in the Mid-Atlantic area.
The pole would be built behind Zimmerman's Home Center on Route 108 and would be topped with an array of nine cellular antennas.
"When you go through that general area, the calls are spotty," said Jeff Owens, senior real estate manager for Cellular One.
Federal regulations require that the company, which provides service over 19,000 square miles in most of Maryland and parts of Virginia and West Virginia, provide "continuous quality coverage," Mr. Owen said.
To build the tower, the company needs both a special exception for a public utility use, and a variance to the 40-foot height restriction in a commercially zoned area.
The county Department of Planning and Zoning will recommend that the exception and variance be approved upon the condition that they cannot be used for any other structure on the property.
Unlike lattice-work towers many antennas are mounted on, the Clarksville structure would be a smooth, single pole, tapered toward the top. It would not need guide wires to keep it in place, Mr. Owens said.
"The array of antennas at the top is similar to the cluster of lights that you see at the top of a light pole," Mr. Owens said, which would make the entire structure very similar to the tall light poles that illuminate interstate highway interchanges.
The only Cellular One pole in the county is a 98-foot structure on the property of Coastal Mini-Storage, near I-95 and Route 175 in the Jessup area.
The company has six other antenna arrays in the county. One is on a company-owned tower on Elibank Drive in Elkridge. Four of them, in Cooksville, Dayton, Marriottsville and on Route 108 near Howard High School, were installed on existing towers under a lease arrangement.
An cluster of antennas is also mounted atop the high-rise Vantage House in Columbia's Town Center.
The Planning Board meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Ellicott Room of the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City. After hearing testimony, the board will make a recommendation to the county Board of Appeals, which will hold its own hearing March 29 before making a final decision on the structure.