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Author Topic: Tower restrictions, any attorneys or experienced hams? Need help  (Read 65314 times)
AA2HA
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Posts: 16




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« on: December 14, 2010, 07:30:48 PM »

Hi to all. I'm hoping someone may be able to give me some guidance. Now disabled for two years (auto accident) and attempting to live on Social security has been a real challenge for myself and my family. Formerly a very active and athletic fellow, conforming to this new sedentary lifestyle has proven difficult. One of the remaining leisure activities that afford some solace and gratification is amateur radio. A few years ago I moved from the NYC metro area to PA. I live on a 2.7 acre parcel. After two dipoles broke (I had to hire a tree company) and experiencing radio silence for the last several months, My friends and family chipped-in and purchased a 70' free-standing tower for me. Since PA has a PRB-1 law (Senate bill 884, act 88), the Federal PRB-1 and the fact that I live on nearly three acres in a very rural area, I thought this would be as easy as filing for a zoning permit. I could have not been more wrong.
 At first, I was denied and told that "no towers are allowed on private property in the township" I forwarded a copy of the PA senate bill and PRB-1 to the township. They advised me that they had to submit this to the township solicitor (attorney) for an opinion.
 Basically the attorney concluded that since the township has no such zoning permitted, it is "A use not provided for" I would have to pay the following fees, just to meet with the board to even consider the matter. 
$600.00 Special application fee
$600.00 to meet with the board
Hire a stenographer to record the meeting (price unknown)
Secretarial fees (amount unknown)
Mailing fees (amount unknown)
Engineer fee (unknown amount)
A list of all property owners within 300' of my property
I assume this cost would be in the thousands just for them to hear "my side". I can not afford this!
 I spoke to a nice gentleman from the VC program that advised me that clearly the township is wrong. And that ham radio antenna structures are a "permitted accessory use" of  residential property and not a "use not provided for."
 I have two options as the town refuses to deny or issue my zoning permit. (all they keep saying is that it is "a use not provided for")
A. Hire a lawyer, which I can not afford
B. Take a chance with the zoning board, which I also can not afford and may may be denied.
Anyone that may have an idea or may be able to help in any way, please let me know. Thanks!

Yes, I have have written respectful letters. I have been a MARS member for years and an antenna on the tower will serve as a RACES link. None of this seems to matter or impress the local zoning board. As I've said, I moved to a rural are- There is no mayor to appeal to and the town counsel are the very same folks that sit on the zoning board.

Any comments, suggestions or help is greatly appreciated, Tim
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K1CJS
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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2010, 04:35:02 AM »

Try contacting the section manager of the ARRL for your area.  They may be able to do something for you.
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WX7G
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« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2010, 06:10:47 AM »

The ARRL can help you find a ham attorney who may do work for you pro bono. You still have to pay the fees. Are you an ARRL member?

An alternative is to install something like a 5BTV vertical. Is a tower really needed?
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K5LXP
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« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2010, 12:48:41 PM »

> At first, I was denied and told that "no towers are allowed on private property in the township"

Do you have a copy of the zoning ordinance?  It would be worth a read.  It's important to know just how your parcel is zoned, and how towers are defined.

I agree that they are typically considered an accessory structure, like a shed.  Attaching it to your house may be one way to circumvent any separate structure issues.

Sometimes amateur towers are lumped in with commercial towers and you have to convince them you're not commercial.  This could be just a variance.  Or, change how your parcel is zoned.

You can do a lot of the homework regarding the existing code, coming up with  examples of existing structures and their permitting and overall understanding just exactly what you need to do to get this thing installed without spending any money or getting anyone else involved.  If you just wave PRB-1 and ARES in their face you're going to get, well, what you just got.  They don't care, and they shouldn't.  You need to sell it purely on the legal basis as a property owner in that community.  I can't believe there's not one other 70' structure in that entire area.  What about light poles? Cell towers?  Billboards?  Wind mills?

The ARRL is not going to come in like a knight on a white charger.  The legal defense committee has a limited budget , things have to get pretty ugly for you, and they'll only contribute a portion of the $ and legal advice you need.

It still may require a special use permit or zoning variance and that will cost you.  A properly installed tower will cost thousands in services and material, so if a permit fee is scaring you off you may want to reconsider.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AA2HA
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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2010, 12:15:06 PM »

I have contacted my section manager who advised me to join a local club. Unfortunately, that's nearly an hour ride and being disabled, this is almost an impossibility. I've contacted the ARRl (I'm not currently a member) and left a few voice mails but haven't received any return calls.
 I agree with you Mark, I've read as much legal case law as I could find. It seems that the usual decision is that amateur radio antenna and support structures have been found to be customary accessory use devices. My Township solicitor (advising attorney) disagrees.  He has stated that this is "A use not specifically provided for" in township zoning. The township ordinance which they site (and refuse to offer me a zoning permit under) Is "Use not provided for." I have no problem paying application fees, but this could easily cost 3,000-4,000 bucks, maybe more just to present my side. This, I do have a problem with. I suppose what I fail to understand is this: Why should it be MY obligation, as John Q Citizen, to pay thousands of dollars for my township to comply with State and Federal law? Perhaps I'm missing something here.
 I already have the tower (nearly $6,000) was generously raised by family and friends and delivered here several months ago in an attempt to occupy some time and afford me some comfort.  I can assure you that since being disabled, I have very limited recreational activities left. The tower is very important to me. I live in the woods, and I mean dense forest. Ground mounted verticals aren't going to be very effective and, as previously stated, a RACES link will also be mounted to the tower for 900 MHz. I absolutely need to be above tree level. I believe 70 feet to be a modest height.
 The 900 MHz antenna and repeater (along with 7/8 hardline) will be supplied by the RACES repeater group. I only wish to hang a fan dipole for the time being and hope to add a 10/15/20 meter band beam when funds permit.
 As far as other structured, Yes Mark, they have Flag poles of that size at all three local schools only feet from the buildings and the ultimate thumb-in-the-eye scenario, one in front of the very Township building that refuses to issue me a permit!
 It just seems unfortunate that we have a PRB-1 law in PA that is supposed to supersede local law, and at least two federal orders, PRB-1 and Title 47 CFR ยง 97.15): Act 88, but cities, towns and municipalities ignore them unless you're fortunate enough to be in a financial position to challenge them.  It's sad indeed.
 
 
 
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2010, 03:29:54 PM »

I have contacted my section manager who advised me to join a local club. Unfortunately, that's nearly an hour ride and being disabled, this is almost an impossibility. I've contacted the ARRl (I'm not currently a member) and left a few voice mails but haven't received any return calls.

I'd encourage you to join.  Then you don't actually need to contact the League directly, just the Volunteer Counsel closest to you.  There are ten in PA, one of whom I know personally (Chris WA3CMP): http://www.arrl.org/system/vcs/search/page:1/Entity.state:PA/model:Entity

Quote
This, I do have a problem with. I suppose what I fail to understand is this: Why should it be MY obligation, as John Q Citizen, to pay thousands of dollars for my township to comply with State and Federal law? Perhaps I'm missing something here.

It can be like that in places that I have carefully avoided living, by doing a lot of advance research prior to each move.  But these issues certainly exist.  Where I live (Los Angeles) is extremely "ham friendly" and has written amateur radio towers specifically into local code (towers are allowed).  However some very nearby communities aren't, and require a Conditional Use Permit for almost anything.  A CUP "application" can easily cost $2500 and is no guarantee of getting approval -- that's just the non-refundable application fee, for a hearing.  It also involves a lot of paperwork and notifying all neighbors within 500 feet (or something) of the time and date of your hearing in case they want to show up and object.


 
 
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2010, 03:51:47 PM »

Sorry to hear about all the troubles.

Couple of points:

First, the tower:

- Where you live may be rural but it's also close to a number of areas that are very sensitive (Delaware Water Gap, parks, Bushkill Falls, etc.). It's a resort/recreation area, too.

- There are probably some hams in your township; do any of them have towers?

- Your friends & family meant well, but buying a tower before there was permission wasn't a good idea. From what I have seen, often the tower itself is the least expensive part! Besides permits and other fees, there's the foundation, construction costs, grounding system, antennas, feedlines, rotators, etc. Plus recurring costs such as maintenance and insurance. Is it possible to sell or return the tower and get at least some of the money back?

- Join the ARRL, they will help. But they cannot do it all; their resources are limited too.

- You need qualified legal counsel. Yes, it shouldn't be that way, but that's how it is in many places today. The locals are trying to do what they think is best for the community, which often doesn't include amateur radio because they have no experience of amateur radio.

---

Now for the antenna issue:

You have lots of trees - why not a wire dipole, or a loop? You mentioned that two dipoles broke - why did they break? How were they put up? What were they made of?

A dipole or loop won't solve the tower problem, but such an antenna will get you on the air. That's important, both for your own state of mind and for the tower issue.

Hams have been putting wire antennas in trees since spark days. You may need a tree company to get the lines back up, but once that's done it should be possible to do all work from ground level if the installation is done the right way.

Good luck!

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA2HA
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2010, 09:19:00 PM »

Hey Jim,

 I am near those areas but in a private community. I have the blessing of the board and president of our community, so no CC&R issues. It's funny, my family and friends (including two fellow hams) checked the PA Senate bill which expressly preempts towns in PA from regulating amateur radio towers and, as I would have, assumed no issues. But we all know what happens when we assume.
 I wish I could afford legal counsel. A Union electrician for over 30 years, although not a rich man, never had financial difficulties. Attempting to live on Social Security has been a rude awakening.
 The first antenna was a G5RV Sr. (204 feet long) installed in an inverted V fashion. It was made with 10 ga. copper THHN wire. What happened to that one? I can only assume, but bordering miles of State Land (Delaware State Forest), kids routinely drive ATV's through a path on my property. All I know for sure is that one day, someone got one of the ends of the antenna (it was supported by Dacron rope  through a pulley with a weight on the end) up about 10 feet. They took the weight, rope and 102' of copper for that end.
 Unable to climb, I called the tree company back (at another $250.00, plus materials) had them hang my newly made G5RV Sr. with 12 ga. copper-clad steel (really strong stuff, something like 900 lb. break strength) and had them support the weights much higher. As my luck would have it, a mere two months later, an ice storm toppled a very large pine tree...you guessed it right onto the antenna. (this is exactly why I don't buy lottery tickets).
 Some of the issues are the almost all of the large trees are very tall, very thin pine trees that sway vary badly in the wind. I lose trees every winter to ice and wind. There is a fairly large clearing on my property where the previous owner was going to build a "mother-in-law" home. A nice clearing in the woods, perfect for a tower, and out of the fall-range of any trees! There are even three 2 1/2" conduits already run underground to the site. They're begging to be filled with coax and rotor cable.  Smiley
 
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AA2HA
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Posts: 16




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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2010, 09:40:57 PM »

Hey Steve,

 What part of Jersey are you from? I lived in Nutley most of my life. I'm jealous that while you bask in the sun in CA, it's been in the low teens to single digits back here for the last week (at night) and in the 20's days.
 Unfortunately all those attorneys are more than 150 miles from me. I did consult three attorneys from that list. One advised me to "do a Google search and find a closer lawyer." Another was helpful, but also stated he was too far away. A third was extremely helpful and offered to write a letter to the township attorney!!! That was three weeks ago and I haven't heard back from him. I understand that they don't have to do this and I'm sure they're busy. All agree that the township is "clearly wrong" and must accommodate me (by law), but it would most likely take an attorney to represent me. Again, I'm back to either paying 3-4K for an attorney or 3-4K to the town.
 Unfortunately, neither are viable options at this time and amount to the same thing. As the township zoning officer stated "You'll pave the way for the next guy." Lucky him or her. Smiley I wish I were the second guy. lol
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KF7CG
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Posts: 836




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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2010, 04:36:12 AM »

Too bad you already have the tower! You could put up a silo of good height (I suspect that that woulddn't raise any eyebrows. A silo might make a nice antenna support and would be allowed. You could shunt load it to0 and use it for a broader banded vertical.

Most of the zoning and planning board types are masters at straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

Is a windmill permissible? Many of my "older" Amateur friends used "windmill" towers to support quite large beams. A windmill tower (old style without windmill) even looks like a "radio" tower.

Just some conversation points.

KF7CG
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N1DVJ
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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2010, 08:17:16 AM »

Is a windmill permissible? Many of my "older" Amateur friends used "windmill" towers to support quite large beams. A windmill tower (old style without windmill) even looks like a "radio" tower.
Heck, I'd put up the windmill.  Then maybe 'add' the antenna after a year or so.

Also, there's usually a minimum height.  Can you go 40 feet without a permit?  Go the 40 for now, then in a year or two ask for the permit to go higher.
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WX7G
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« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2010, 09:20:10 AM »

THHN doesn't last long with moving trees. The Wireman #531, #13 AWG, 19 strand 40% copper-clad steel with a tough coating is recommended for through-the-trees installation.

Add an amp.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2010, 06:29:48 AM by DAVE CUTHBERT » Logged
WB2WIK
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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2010, 10:05:24 AM »

Hey Steve,

 What part of Jersey are you from? I lived in Nutley most of my life. I'm jealous that while you bask in the sun in CA, it's been in the low teens to single digits back here for the last week (at night) and in the 20's days.

I grew up in Springfield, only about probably 15 miles or so from Nutley.  I hated the WX back there and moved to L.A. 23 years ago.  WX is better here. Smiley

Quote
Unfortunately all those attorneys are more than 150 miles from me. I did consult three attorneys from that list. One advised me to "do a Google search and find a closer lawyer." Another was helpful, but also stated he was too far away. A third was extremely helpful and offered to write a letter to the township attorney!!! That was three weeks ago and I haven't heard back from him. I understand that they don't have to do this and I'm sure they're busy. All agree that the township is "clearly wrong" and must accommodate me (by law), but it would most likely take an attorney to represent me. Again, I'm back to either paying 3-4K for an attorney or 3-4K to the town.

Did you contact Chris WA3CMP?  He's definitely 150 miles from you but he's an old friend of mine.  If you haven't contacted him, try that and tell him I said hello.

Quote
Unfortunately, neither are viable options at this time and amount to the same thing. As the township zoning officer stated "You'll pave the way for the next guy." Lucky him or her. Smiley I wish I were the second guy. lol

The whole thing is unfortunate.  I don't know if you lived in Nutley back in about 1979-80 or so, but if you did and remember the West Orange Repeater Tower battle, I was involved in that a bit.  Mike WA2JSB put up a repeater at his home, just down about 100' below the summit of Eagle Rock (reservation ridge) in West Orange, so he needed about a 100' tower to clear that and have any coverage.  The town fought him and fought him and fought him, and it became a big case of Mike vs. the city Zoning Board.

Thankfully one of the club members and regular repeater users was a ham who was also a successful attorney (Harvard grad, young guy) and offered to represent Mike for free.  I think he had fun with it.

About 100 hams showed up for the hearing, it was standing room only.  I can't remember the lawyer's callsign offhand, but his name was Jim.  He chewed up and spit out the entire Zoning Board, citing them with numerous violations of state code and all sorts of crap he was able to dig up.  They all had their tails between their legs after this hearing, and the zoning ordinance was immediately revised to allow "amateur radio towers up to 100 feet in height" without the need for a variance or use permit.  As far as I know, that ordinance still stands.
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KF7CG
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« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2010, 10:29:05 AM »

If you have to go the Lawsuit Route, see if you can find a way to force the township to pay all the legal costs since it is abundantly clear that they are using the threat of high legal and/or permitting fees to effectively ban towers. This appears to be significant contempt for the laws under which they must operate and maybe someone could send them to their just rewards while getting them to pay for the ticket.

KF7CG
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K1CJS
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« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2010, 11:24:41 AM »

Quote
If you just wave PRB-1......in their face you're going to get, well, what you just got.  They don't care, and they shouldn't.

They shouldn't care about Federal laws?  I disagree--they should.  But, as you stated, many of them don't care--until someone with muscle (meaning money) gets them in hot water.  Those fees (as they are stated in this thread) are unreasonable--and THAT would come under the PRB-1 law.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2010, 09:24:41 AM by Chris J. Smith » Logged
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