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Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/13/06

Police site picked for Fair Haven cell tower

BY LARRY HIGGS
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU

But council will fight Verizon's bid

FAIR HAVEN — The Borough Council has selected the police station property as a borough cell tower site and hired a Princeton attorney to represent the borough at tonight's hearing on Verizon Wireless' application to build a cell tower here.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire Stuart Lieberman of Princeton to represent it in the Verizon case at tonight's Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The council voted 4-1 to select the police station site on Fisk Street out of three that were considered. Council President Thomas Gilmour said that site has a radio tower and would have the least impact on residents. The vote allows for taking proposals from engineers to design a cell tower for that site or its lease to a company that would build and maintain a tower for the borough.

Councilman Chris Walrath cast the lone vote against approving the police station site, saying that the town's efforts should be channeled into fighting the Verizon application.

After the meeting, Gilmour reiterated the council's intent to fight the Verizon application based on a borough ordinance that only permits a cell tower on municipal property.

"We have an ordinance, and Verizon is asking for a variance (from it)," he said. "Our stance is that they will get no relief (from the ordinance) whatsoever."

The selection of the police station site surprised most of the five residents who attended Tuesday's special meeting. Several residents said they oppose a tower in any location.

"I didn't expect them to vote on a location," said Stephen Bland of Allen Street, whose home is near a site also considered for a tower. "I wouldn't push this on anyone in Fair Haven. I can't say, "don't put it in my backyard, put it in his yard.' "

The council had narrowed its search to three sites — the police station, the public works garage on Allen and Third streets and a site off Fair Haven Fields, near William Street.

Verizon wants to build a 133-foot-high tower on land owned by the Church of the Nativity off Ridge Road, if approved by the zoning board. That hearing is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. today. The application was made in October by a partnership consisting of Verizon Wireless and Omnipoint Communications.

At a forum held last month to take public comment, many residents said they oppose locating a cell tower anywhere in the borough. Several disputed the stated need for a tower — to eliminate dead spots — saying they had adequate cell phone service.

William Street resident Laura Kuras said she felt the council's actions — to hire an expert to fight Verizon's application and to pick a site for its own tower — were contradictory.
"It's a bit dichotomous to me. The police site is the furthest from residential homes of the three (sites), but I wouldn't wish it to be in someone else's backyard," Kuras said.

Stuart Jacobs of Ridge Road said building a municipal tower will at least give the borough control over its height and appearance. If Verizon's tower is approved as proposed, it will be more than three times the height of the Church of the Nativity steeple, which is 40 feet high, he said.

"None of us wants it in anyone else's backyard, but I'm glad you can control the process," Jacobs told the council.