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Author Topic: Moving in four weeks, approaching the end of a torturous journey  (Read 8536 times)
N4UP
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Posts: 23




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« on: May 06, 2013, 10:43:59 AM »

When I rediscovered my passion for ham radio about a year ago, I found myself in a neighborhood with an HOA and antenna restrictions.  So I got on the air with several semi-rigid multi-band HF dipoles mounted on tripods in the attic.  For about a year now I have been running up to 600 watts and have made over 8,000 QSOs.  But I yearned for something better.  So about five months ago I started looking for a new QTH.  Being retired, I don't have to worry so much about where I live, but I didn't want to be too far from my kids, so I looked in the area between Raleigh NC and northern Virginia.  That's a lot of territory, and a lot of different counties.

So for every property listing that matched my basic criteria ( price, nice home, decent neighborhood, 5-10 acres, no HOA, no deed restrictions, underground utilities, private but not isolated, etc. ) I evaluated the property using aerial mapping ( Bing, Google, MapQuest ) and looked at the county's GIS if there was one.  That way I could measure the distances between the house and neighboring homes, check clearances to nearby peaks, avoid power lines, etc.  Wherever possible I also searched property records for deed restrictions, because real estate listings are notoriously inaccurate.  Sometimes even after a realtor assured me several times that there are no deed restrictions, I was able to find them.  In one case there were antenna restrictions placed in a road maintenance agreement.  If a property passed this second stage then I did a drive by and made an appointment to see the property.  I also did a search for any hams within 10 miles or so in case I was about to move next door to an avid HF contester ( nothing wrong with being an avid HF contester, but I wouldn't want to live next door to one ).  In each case I also obtained a copy of the permit/sketch for the septic and drain-field, and then physically verified the locations, so I would know what my options were for siting a tower.

And of course I obtained and read the various ham radio books about towers and zoning.

One important part of the evaluation was downloading the zoning ordinance ( if available ) and visiting the County zoning and planning office and talking with a planner and with the building inspector ( because many zoning ordinances are vague and subject to interpretation ).  I did this for dozens of different counties in NC and VA.  Some ordinances/counties were ham-friendly, and some were not.  I then only pursued properties in counties where the zoning ordinance and county officials were ham-friendly.  Both NC and VA have state PRB-1's but the NC statute is vague; the VA statute is much clearer, though some VA counties seem to ignore it.

After looking through many, many hundreds of listings and doing evaluations on over 350 properties, I ended up making formal offers on four properties ( not at the same time ).  Whenever I wrote a contract I added a contingency clause regarding deed restrictions and tower siting, giving me an out if I should discover there were any restrictions or preclusions.  Three of the four property contracts fell through for various reasons, but I am now optimistic that the fourth one will work and I have a closing date of June 5th.  My new property is in the Southside region of Virginia, in a rural county, with almost 15 acres of mostly wooded land to work with.  Of course there are no absolute guarantees, but I have done everything I can to "minimize" the possibility of challenges to my intended tower and antennas.  I will apply for a building permit for the tower, comply with all local rules, and have the tower professionally installed.  My neighbors will not be able to see it from the street or from their properties.

Along the way there were quite a few bumps, and I am very grateful for the advice received in the various forums that ( a ) enabled me to get the most out of my attic antenna system and ( b ) avoid a number of pitfalls in looking for a new QTH.


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73, peter N4UP
WH7DX
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2013, 12:30:22 PM »

Man.. you really did your research.. nice job and congrats! 

One thing..  you made 8,000 contacts in a year and worried about being close to a contester?..  Cheesy

That's impressive with attic antennas.

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N4UP
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2013, 12:45:28 PM »

Man.. you really did your research.. nice job and congrats! 

One thing..  you made 8,000 contacts in a year and worried about being close to a contester?..  Cheesy

That's impressive with attic antennas.

Thank you.  Yes, lot's of QRN with the attic antennas but I have a great transceiver with DNR and filters that work wonders.

I wouldn't want to be close to an avid HF contester, in part for my sake, in part for his sake.  I am a casual HF contester, mostly CW, mostly looking for new countries and new prefixes.

My new QTH has a ham density of 0.046 per square mile ( that's 20 hams in 432 square miles, and none of them are active HF contesters ). 
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73, peter N4UP
WH7DX
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2013, 03:00:41 PM »

I like that..  "Ham Density"....  Grin

Sounds like you found yourself a nice place.  I'm SURE those prefix's will be piling up if you were able to do so well in your attic.   Get yourself a Hexbeam from K4KIO up 40-50ft (spend less than $1000 for everything) and you'll be rock'n.. unless you're going full-out with huge tower etc. $$$

I just got some replacement parts for mine (near ocean.. time to check it out).  Going another 10 ft higher.  Only 15ft above ground on my North path.. 200+ ft on my E/S/W path.  His new antenna wire looks like monster stereo cable  Grin   stranded 4 gauge?   I think I need to order the other 3 bands and match them.   Who cares if it makes a difference.. they're reallllll  prettyyyyy.    Grin

I'm surrounded by big hammers...   probably a million lookups on QRZ between 6 of them.   The funny thing is..  We usually hear DX better than we hear each other... (I'm a small pea)  Grin   Sometimes I can barely pickup an outer-island that's only 100-150 miles away. 

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N4UP
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2013, 04:59:33 PM »

Sounds like you found yourself a nice place.  I'm SURE those prefix's will be piling up if you were able to do so well in your attic.   Get yourself a Hexbeam from K4KIO up 40-50ft (spend less than $1000 for everything) and you'll be rock'n.. unless you're going full-out with huge tower etc. $$$

I like that..  "Ham Density"....  Grin

Well, I am planning a 72' crank-up tower and a 10-30 meter yagi or lpda, but I will probably start with full-size dipoles for 160-80-40 meters plus a hex beam on a 40 foot mast.  And then once I have sold my current home I will have the money to put up the tower.  I won't be competing with the big guns or winning any contests but I will have a lot of fun.

Sounds like you live in a high ham-density area.  And of course what really matters is the HF weighted-ham density, i.e., the number of HF hams weighted by the number of QRZ look-ups and divided by the number of square miles, which for my new QTH is very, very low. 

My new county population has less than 13,000 people and the biggest town in the county has less than 2,000 people.  The population density is important because the VA PRB-1 says for low-density communities you can have a 200' tower, while for high-density communities the limit is 75' ...  Now I don't plan to go beyond 75' but I like being able to if I really wanted to.
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73, peter N4UP
WH7DX
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2013, 05:54:49 PM »

Sounds good.  I should have said the cost of the whole hex beam package is less than a $1000 without factoring in a $450 rotator.  With rotator, antenna, coax, poles, paint, rope and extras is around $1300-1500.

The dipoles sound good.   Put in a big 600ft switchable beverage.. East / West?

Let's see.. I have KH6MB about 5 miles away with 275,000 and WH6R (my Elmer) who has 155,000 and 3 miles away.... They're crazy CW'rs.. not my thing at the moment. Grin

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K0JEG
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2013, 06:07:03 AM »

Kind of a shame that we have to go through so much just to enjoy our hobby. Meanwhile, now that spring is in the air we awake to the sound of V-twins with straight pipes every Saturday, and no one seems to care.
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AB4D
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 10:39:51 AM »

Congratulations on your move and new property.  It sounds like you did your homework and I hope it pays rich dividends for many more Q's.  I went through the same process 8 years ago before moving to a rural community in Northern Virginia, although I limited the scope of my search to within driving distance to my work (soon to be retired) Grin.

It's the best move I ever made.  I did most of what you did and even went one step further.  Before we ratified the contract, I had my realtor obtain a letter of pre-approval from the zoning department, stating there was no county, private deed, or HOA restrictions that would prohibit the installation of a 72-foot tower for ham radio on my property, as long as the construction met all building codes.  I thought I was all set to go for an easy tower installation.  I was wrong.

After moving, I began to seek the permit to install my tower.  The building department turned out to be not so ham-radio friendly.  At first, they were reluctant to issue a permit at all.  When I inquired about the forms I needed to obtain a permit to install a ham radio tower on my property, the permit technician looked at me as if I was speaking in an Alien language.  He was not very helpful, and was more interested in knowing if it was really necessary for me to have a tower.

The letter I initially received from zoning helped to get the ball rolling, but it did not resolve the problems I experienced with the building department. The building department's take, “they are zoning, OK it says the property is not restricted in relation to a tower installation, but we are building and we decide how the tower should be rated, how it will be installed and what you have to do to meet the county code.”  The requirements for commercial towers that are on the books would have prevented the average ham from affording a tower.

To submit the permit request, I made an appointment with the county administrator and attached a ham radio informational packet I put together to the permit request.  The packet included information from the FCC showing that amateur radio is noncommercial, a copy of PRB-1, and a copy of the Virginia Antenna Law.  The Administrator had the county attorney review the information.  Based on PRB-1 (his opinion) he directed the building department to issue a permit that removed most of the restrictions. The only restriction left in place was screening, I already had trees and plants on site so that was already done.  Later conversations revealed the building department just did not know how to react to a request for a ham radio tower.  They viewed all towers the same and never received a permit request from an individual seeking to install a tower.    

Even though I thought I covered all bases, there is always the chance that something may not always go as planned.

Good Luck, 73.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 10:51:17 AM by AB4D » Logged
N4UP
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Posts: 23




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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2013, 11:26:02 AM »

Congratulations on your move and new property.  It sounds like you did your homework and I hope it pays rich dividends for many more Q's.  I went through the same process 8 years ago before moving to a rural community in Northern Virginia, although I limited the scope of my search to within driving distance to my work (soon to be retired) Grin.

It's the best move I ever made.  I did most of what you did and even went one step further.  Before we ratified the contract, I had my realtor obtain a letter of pre-approval from the zoning department, stating there was no county, private deed, or HOA restrictions that would prohibit the installation of a 72-foot tower for ham radio on my property, as long as the construction met all building codes.  I thought I was all set to go for an easy tower installation.  I was wrong.

After moving, I began to seek the permit to install my tower.  The building department turned out to be not so ham-radio friendly.  At first, they were reluctant to issue a permit at all.  When I inquired about the forms I needed to obtain a permit to install a ham radio tower on my property, the permit technician looked at me as if I was speaking in an Alien language.  He was not very helpful, and was more interested in knowing if it was really necessary for me to have a tower.

The letter I initially received from zoning helped to get the ball rolling, but it did not resolve the problems I experienced with the building department. The building department's take, “they are zoning, OK it says the property is not restricted in relation to a tower installation, but we are building and we decide how the tower should be rated, how it will be installed and what you have to do to meet the county code.”  The requirements for commercial towers that are on the books would have prevented the average ham from affording a tower.

To submit the permit request, I made an appointment with the county administrator and attached a ham radio informational packet I put together to the permit request.  The packet included information from the FCC showing that amateur radio is noncommercial, a copy of PRB-1, and a copy of the Virginia Antenna Law.  The Administrator had the county attorney review the information.  Based on PRB-1 (his opinion) he directed the building department to issue a permit that removed most of the restrictions. The only restriction left in place was screening, I already had trees and plants on site so that was already done.  Later conversations revealed the building department just did not know how to react to a request for a ham radio tower.  They viewed all towers the same and never received a permit request from an individual seeking to install a tower.    

Even though I thought I covered all bases, there is always the chance that something may not always go as planned.

Good Luck, 73.

Thank you.  I'm glad things ultimately worked out for you.  And I do realize that despite assurances from the zoning/planning and building officials, I may still need to jump through some hoops and may very well have to emulate your steps.  My new QTH is in Lunenburg County ( VA ), and their zoning and tower ordinances do not explicitly account for ham radio towers like so many VA counties do.  There were some VA counties that seemed much more ham friendly, while I ended up buying in a county that was not-unfriendly.  At first when I visited the building inspector he said I would need a conditional use permit and he would help me with the public hearings, planning commission, etc.  I asked him to check with the planning commission, he did so and called me to say that I would be exempt from the tower ordinance and would only need a building permit.  There are still no guarantees, but I am optimistic.

By the way, I used to live in Northern Virginia ( Manassas and Leesburg ) before I retired from the federal government ( Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Energy ).  I find the cost of living in North Carolina and Southside Virginia to be much less than in Northern Virginia.  I could not afford to retire there, so moved to NC eight years ago.
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73, peter N4UP
K7KB
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2013, 03:40:24 PM »

Jim (AB4D): That's one of the biggest obstacles I had when I went to apply for tower permit, the ignorance of most Building and Planning departments in regards to the construction and engineering of most Amateur Radio towers. They try to lump it together with Wireless Communications Facilities (Cell towers) and as we both know they are not the same. For example, at first my local B & P department wanted me to supply welding engineering and specifications for a pre-built US Tower TX-472 as if I was building the tower from scratch. Also, the engineering guy there had no concept on how a crank-up tower worked. I tried to explain it over the phone, but ended up setting up a meeting with him so I could show the person a video on my iPad of someone cranking up the tower. And mind you I'm not saying these guys are stupid, but they just don't deal with Amateur Radio towers often enough to know what engineering specs should apply.

Another thing that compounds the problem is that because of the hassles and expense of getting a permit, fewer and fewer hams are applying for them. So that makes it worse for us smucks that actually try to do the right thing Smiley I eventually did get my permit, but it wasn't cheap and if I had to do it over again, I'll probably move somewhere a lot more Ham Friendly than where I'm at now.

John K7KB
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AB4D
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2013, 06:59:21 AM »

Peter,

Great to read, it appears you got over the first major hurdle, the requirement for a CUP and all the associated red tape.  That was the major hurdle I had to clear as well.  Hopefully, you should be good to go with the permitting process and eventual installation of your tower.  I too moved from Loudoun County, but I relocated to Warren County (Front Royal).  Many are surprised how much less the cost of living is in the Shenandoah Valley, when compared to places such as Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax counties, but I'm sure it is even better farther South.  I have a friend (AA4MC)that lives in South Boston, VA. I am not sure how far he lives from your new place, but he likes living in that area.

John,

The Building Department here didn't want such intricate details, such as welding specifications, but they did require a full set of engineering plans from the tower manufacturer.  The second issue I had with them was the application of the EIA-222G 90 mph windload/icing ratings to my tower installation.  I could be wrong, but based on what I've read it's my understanding the windload/icing ratings specified in EIA-222G are not applicable to ham radio towers.  I believe those ratings exist as guidelines to ensure survivability of critical infrastructure towers for Commercial and Government installations.  Nevertheless, my building department would not budge on that issue.  So rather than purchase the tower I had planned (HDX-472) I purchase the HDX-572 so the tower could meet code.  Eventually, you have to learn to pick and choose your battles when dealing with some of these issues.

73
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N4UP
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2013, 08:30:34 AM »

Peter,

Great to read, it appears you got over the first major hurdle, the requirement for a CUP and all the associated red tape.  That was the major hurdle I had to clear as well.  Hopefully, you should be good to go with the permitting process and eventual installation of your tower.  I too moved from Loudoun County, but I relocated to Warren County (Front Royal).  Many are surprised how much less the cost of living is in the Shenandoah Valley, when compared to places such as Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax counties, but I'm sure it is even better farther South.  I have a friend (AA4MC)that lives in South Boston, VA. I am not sure how far he lives from your new place, but he likes living in that area.

Thank you.  I was very lucky,  Sold my home in Leesburg ( 2004 ) for almost three times what I paid for it and bought a home in North Carolina that was twice the size and half the price ( and four times the acreage ).  Without the profit from that sale I would not have been able to retire so comfortably.  And even though I lost money selling that property ( 2008 ) I am still in pretty good shape.  I did recently look in the Front Royal area but couldn't find the right property.  South Boston is about 1 hour 15 minutes away.  Very nice area.  But I opted for a bit more rural and to be a bit closer to my kids.

John,

The Building Department here didn't want such intricate details, such as welding specifications, but they did require a full set of engineering plans from the tower manufacturer.  The second issue I had with them was the application of the EIA-222G 90 mph windload/icing ratings to my tower installation.  I could be wrong, but based on what I've read it's my understanding the windload/icing ratings specified in EIA-222G are not applicable to ham radio towers.  I believe those ratings exist as guidelines to ensure survivability of critical infrastructure towers for Commercial and Government installations.  Nevertheless, my building department would not budge on that issue.  So rather than purchase the tower I had planned (HDX-472) I purchase the HDX-572 so the tower could meet code.  Eventually, you have to learn to pick and choose your battles when dealing with some of these issues.

Ah.  The combination of experience and wisdom.  Always nice to see that ( and learn from it ).
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73, peter N4UP
K7KB
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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2013, 10:53:41 AM »



John,

The Building Department here didn't want such intricate details, such as welding specifications, but they did require a full set of engineering plans from the tower manufacturer.  The second issue I had with them was the application of the EIA-222G 90 mph windload/icing ratings to my tower installation.  I could be wrong, but based on what I've read it's my understanding the windload/icing ratings specified in EIA-222G are not applicable to ham radio towers.  I believe those ratings exist as guidelines to ensure survivability of critical infrastructure towers for Commercial and Government installations.  Nevertheless, my building department would not budge on that issue.  So rather than purchase the tower I had planned (HDX-472) I purchase the HDX-572 so the tower could meet code.  Eventually, you have to learn to pick and choose your battles when dealing with some of these issues.

73

No, you are not wrong. Class I towers (Amateur, CB) are exempt from the icing ratings according to TIA-222G. I had to take documents into my local B & P department showing this before they would let me proceed with my permit. It certainly doesn't hurt to have the higher rated tower but it was an extra expense you didn't need to pay.

John K7KB
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AB4D
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2013, 05:00:09 AM »


No, you are not wrong. Class I towers (Amateur, CB) are exempt from the icing ratings according to TIA-222G. I had to take documents into my local B & P department showing this before they would let me proceed with my permit. It certainly doesn't hurt to have the higher rated tower but it was an extra expense you didn't need to pay.

John K7KB


John, I agree with you. It probably would have been unecessary for the added extra expense if I wanted to fight them on that issue.  However, I felt lucky just to finally get the permits in hand.

In retrospect, I am so glad I purchased the heavier tower with the motor drive.  The crank up with the motor drive is the only way to fly.

73, Jim AB4D
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WH7DX
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2013, 01:51:46 PM »

In the book "The Complete DX'r" which was fun to read.. he mentions a little on restrictions to towers and some helpful info about checking on the rules etc..  and says..

Install it all on a Saturday or Sunday because any neighbor or other individual having an issue with the tower will have a harder time getting a court order stopping you for review etc.

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