Adding an odd twist to a long-running controversy, a 133-foot-tall crane is to be raised in the parking lot of the Church of the Nativity in Fair Haven tomorrow to give residents and passersby some idea of what a cellphone tower would look like if built there.

One thing it is sure to look like: a crane three times the height of the church’s 40-foot steeple.

The church property has become the latest front in a effort by Verizon Wireless to build a tower in the borough. Two years ago, the town restricted all such towers to borough-owned property, but each specific site proposed since then has generated strong opposition from residents—or at least, those who aren’t complaining about dropped calls.

One scenario, a proposed swap of parkland at Fair Haven Fields, was shot down by state officials as a violation of Green Acres rules. More recently, on July 12, the council approved allowing a tower next the police station on Fisk Street.

But Verizon and another carrier, Omnipoint Communications, had by then turned their attention to the Church of the Nativity, at the corner of Hance and Ridge Roads, in the hopes of putting a 133-foot tower there. Verizon lawyers have been making lots of noise about getting the ordinance that restricts towers to borough property overturned in court, and borough officials appear worried they’ll be on the losing side of litigation.

Now comes the crane show. Curiously, The Hub, which got the scoop on the demonstration for this week’s issue, doesn’t say whose idea it was, so it’s not clear if this is meant to charm residents or appall them.

The Hub story does say that when the question of what day to erect the crane came up at the July 13 Zoning Board meeting,

one person in the audience suggested it should be on a Sunday so more people could see it, but that idea was turned down because it would be there during church services.

“It’s going to be up there every Sunday for church forever,” an audience member said…

The crane will be up from 9a to 4p. Saturday. The Zoning Board has scheduled a special meeting on the controversial tower issue for next Thursday, July 27, at 7:15 p.

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