A 120-foot high cell tower is being proposed for Joppatowne on a parking lot at 626 Towne Centre Drive by the landmark Rumsey Towers building.
Prime Tower Development, owner of the project owner, will host a public meeting at the Joppa Library, 655 Towne Center Drive, on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.
The purpose of the session is to generate input from the community on this project, the company said in a news release. The Joppa-Joppatowne Community Advisory Board also mentioned the upcoming meeting during its monthly meeting on Monday.
Michael Leaf, of Pessin Katz Law, P.A., Prime Tower's local attorney, said in a statement that no applications for zoning approval or permits have been filed, and "none will be filed until after comments from citizens have been fully considered."
Larry Lichtenauer, a Baltimore public relations consultant who is working with Prime Tower, said the company has received some pushback from the community about the project, which is why they want to hear from residents and provide information in advance of making any applications to Harford County.
The county enacted detailed zoning requirements for cell towers nearly two decades ago, including how far they must be from neighboring structures and what safety standards must be met.
The proposed cell tower in Joppatowne will be a monopole constructed of galvanized steel that prevents rusting and also blends into the surroundings by picking up colors from blue skies and green trees, the company said.
Company official Keith Peck said the 120-foot height will be shorter than comparable towers built in more rural areas that typically are 200 feet or higher.
The Joppatowne tower won't be made to look like a tree, like the one off Pleasantville Road in Fallston, which became known locally as the "monopine," or like a large flagpole, as was done with the tower by the Havre de Grace Little League complex.
Peck said such attempts to disguise towers have been underwhelming, "with the final product appearing fake..."
"We find that the galvanized steel approach works most effectively, as the material does not produce glare, even on the sunniest of days," he said. "In addition, the effort to cram all the necessary equipment into an oversized flagpole is counterproductive as it degrades the performance of the tower. We believe daily performance and reliability should be paramount in any construction exercise."
The cellular industry as a whole is focusing on capacity gaps that exist around the country, including Joppatowne, as it works to bulk up wireless bandwidth for the future, the company said.
Prime Tower said the new tower "is specifically designed to close a critical gap in wireless communications coverage that presently exists in the Harford County community, as well as to increase the capacity of the system."
The company said a byproduct would be an improved consistency of calls made by emergency personnel, as well as connections to 911 by wireless device users. It noted the increasing reliance of first responders and citizens on cell phones during major community emergencies, such as the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.
Prime Tower also cited statistics from the National Emergency Number Association that approximately 80 percent of the 240 million calls made annually to 911 to alert first responders to an on-going emergency situation originate from a wireless device.
"Consumers are inconvenienced by dropped cellular calls due to gaps in wireless coverage due to insufficient cell tower placements, but this can become a life or death situation when an emergency call from a wireless device to 911 does not reach its destination," Steve Handmaker, a principal with Prime Tower Development, said in the news release.
"This coverage hole takes on increased importance based on the use of wireless devices by first responders including police, fire department and ambulance services as a primary form of communication," Handmaker said. "Most of us take for granted that every cell phone call reaches its intended destination. When the quality of the wireless call is negatively impacted, or the call is unable to make a connection at all due to the lack of cell towers, the entire community remains at risk."
"Currently, there exists more than 6.3 billion mobile phone users worldwide, but with the increased dependence on iPhones, tablets, smart watches and emerging technology, an expected 16 billion devices will be in use within the next three years," said John Behnke, a Prime Tower Development specialist working in Memphis. "To handle this significantly increased requirement, the country needs more cell tower coverage and our continuing goal is to remain ahead of the curve."