Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: K7KB vs. Spokane County, Washington  (Read 22124 times)
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« on: April 07, 2011, 08:20:48 AM »

Recently I got back into the hobby after a long hiatus. I've always wanted a tower and beam so decided it was time to put one up, or so I thought. Being a good citizen, I checked into the local zoning regulations and found this:

"16. Tower, private (LDR, LDR-P, MDR, HDR zones)
a. The applicant shall show that the impact area (that area in all directions equal to the
private tower’s height above grade) is completely on the subject property or that an
easement(s) has been secured for all property in the tower’s impact area. Such
easement(s) shall be recorded with the County Auditor with a statement that only the
Division of Building and Planning or its successor agency can remove the easement.
b. The tower must be accessory to a residence on the same site."


They also define a Private Tower as such:

"Tower, Private: A structure less than 75 feet in height above grade used for two-way communication for hobby or emergency service purposes by private individuals. Does not include: Wireless Communication Antenna Array or Wireless Communication Support Tower."

I live in a Cul-de-sac and so how my property is setup required me to get easements from four of my neighbors, which when I first started this process seemed almost impossible. However, I went to each of those neighbors, presented my proposal and answered whatever questions they had, and was able to get my four neighbors to agree. A small miracle in itself.

So after getting the easements signed, I go down to the Spokane County Department of Building and Planning thinking that I had everything in hand to get my building permit. First thing, the nice lady in the cubicle tells me: "You will have to fill out an State Environmental Checklist", and my response: "Say what?". She hands me this 18 page questionnaire with questions that are absolutely ridiculous and really meant for large scale construction or putting up a Cell phone tower. They are basing their requirement for me to fill out the checklist based on the following in the States Environmental Policy Act (SEPA):

"Application of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c) to personal wireless services facilities.
(1) Decisions pertaining to applications to site personal wireless service facilities are not subject to the requirements of RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c), if those facilities meet the following requirements:

(a)(i) The facility to be sited is a microcell and is to be attached to an existing structure that is not a residence or school and does not contain a residence or a school; or (ii) the facility includes personal wireless service antennas, other than a microcell, and is to be attached to an existing structure (that may be an existing tower) that is not a residence or school and does not contain a residence or a school, and the existing structure to which it is to be attached is located in a commercial, industrial, manufacturing, forest, or agricultural zone; or (iii) the siting project involves constructing a personal wireless service tower less than sixty feet in height that is located in a commercial, industrial, manufacturing, forest, or agricultural zone; and

(b) The project is not in a designated environmentally sensitive area; and

(c) The project does not consist of a series of actions: (i) Some of which are not categorically exempt; or (ii) that together may have a probable significant adverse environmental impact.

(2) The department of ecology shall adopt rules to create a categorical exemption for microcells and other personal wireless service facilities that meet the conditions set forth in subsection (1) of this section.

(3) For the purposes of this section:

(a) "Personal wireless services" means commercial mobile services, unlicensed wireless services, and common carrier wireless exchange access services, as defined by federal laws and regulations.

(b) "Personal wireless service facilities" means facilities for the provision of personal wireless services.

(c) "Microcell" means a wireless communication facility consisting of an antenna that is either: (i) Four feet in height and with an area of not more than five hundred eighty square inches; or (ii) if a tubular antenna, no more than four inches in diameter and no more than six feet in length."


They are basing the requirement that I must fill out the Environmental Checklist for my 72 foot tower on the above RCW, particularly on the above provision that "(iii) the siting project involves constructing a personal wireless service tower less than sixty feet in height that is located in a commercial, industrial, manufacturing, forest, or agricultural zone; and"

They maintain that since the tower is over 60 feet in height and in a residential zone, it's subject to the SEPA regulations and I must fill out the environmental checklist.

I've tried to convince them that a Personal Wireless Service is NOT the same as the Amateur Radio service but they just don't seem to get it. I've written them back with a clear and consise argument citing definitions of both and why they are different, but I'm hoping that someone here can find some kind of FCC statement that specifically spells out that the Amateur Radio service is not the same as the Personal Wireless Service. I haven't been able to find anything yet, but perhaps I've just missed it.
By the way, the SEPA regulations does have exemptions for other structures making them exempt from the Checklist process and they are listed below:

"2. Administrative Categorical Exemptions
WAC 197-11-800 through -890.
• Minor new construction (not applicable when a rezone or air or water discharge
permit is required). These thresholds may be increased at the option of the local
government:
o 4 dwelling units (may be raised to 20)
o Certain farm structures up to 10,000 sf (may be raised to 30,000 sf)
o 4000 sf building (may be raised to 12,000 sf)
o 20 parking stalls (may be raised to 40 stalls)
o 100 cu. yds. of excavation over the life of the project (may be raised to 500 cu. yds."


So I could put up a 10,000 square foot barn, 100 feet high, put a roof mounted Beam on the top, and be exempt. However I can't put up a 72 Foot tower on a 5' x 5' concrete pad next to my house? This just shows the insanity of state environmental regulations run amok and local governments misinterpretation of those regulations.

By the way, if anyone would like to read copies of the letters I've written to our county officials, just let me know and I'll post links to let you download them in .PDF format.

John Gager K7KB

« Last Edit: April 07, 2011, 08:26:37 AM by K7KB » Logged
KF7CG
Member

Posts: 839




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2011, 10:32:18 AM »

I don't know where in the CFR you would find it. Here is the thing in a nut shell. "Personal Wireless" is an FCC designated commercial service and has a definition. Amateur Radio is an FCC designated private/not for pecuniary interest service and has a definition and regulations as we all know.

From the CFR it should be absolutely obvious to all who wish to know that the two services are mutually exclusive. Further the WEPA regs are for "Personal Wireless" antennas which by regulation can't be Amateur Radio Service antennas. A tower migh be able to support both but the services are mutually exclusive.

I personally feel that this is a case of Xenophibia run amok.

KF7CG
Logged
K7RBW
Member

Posts: 398




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2011, 07:32:50 PM »

I hope in your description of how the [licensed] Amateur Radio service is not the same as  [unlicensed] Personal Radio service you used the regulatory definitions and descriptions (i.e. the Federal regulations referenced in RCW 43.21C.030(2)(c)(3)(a)).

"Personal Wireless Services" are defined in 47 USC 332 (c)(7)(C) Definitions
For purposes of this paragraph—
(i) the term “personal wireless services” means commercial mobile services, unlicensed wireless services, and common carrier wireless exchange access services;
(ii) the term “personal wireless service facilities” means facilities for the provision of personal wireless services; and
(iii) the term “unlicensed wireless service” means the offering of telecommunications services using duly authorized devices which do not require individual licenses, but does not mean the provision of direct-to-home satellite services (as defined in section 303 (v) of this title).

Each of those terms: "commercial mobile services," "unlicensed wireless services," and "common carrier wireless exchange access services" are specific types of radio service defined in the U.S. Code. None of which are the "Amateur radio services"

47 USC 153 contains the basic defintions used to define the different radios services. e.g. a commercial mobile service is a mobile service operated for hire.

I think if you clarify and cite how these are specific legally defined terms used to identify specific classes of radio service (none of which include amateur radio), you should be able to point out that the RCW specficially EXCLUDES that requirement for amateur radio.

It sounds to me like they are seeing "personal wireless communication" and thinking, well, "this guy wants his own personal wireless tower so he must need the big form."

You're putting up a communications tower for an Amateur station (47USC153(2)) not a Personal Wireless Services station (47 USC 332 (c)(7)(C))...so what's the problem? Smiley You might even bring in a copy of your license that shows you're operating an Amateur Station (it says so on your Station License). If you were operating a "Personal Wireless Services station," it would say so.

Google (and a smile) is your friend on this one.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2011, 07:35:11 PM by K7RBW » Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2011, 04:01:04 PM »

Oh yes, I sent them very clear and concise definitions for both services. Here is what I sent that last time I replied:

Dawn: I do understand the SEPA process, and have read the regulations in RCW 43.21C.0384 concerning Personal Wireless Service facilities. However I can assure you, a Amateur Radio station or tower is NOT a Personal Wireless Service facility and should not be put under the same classification. A Personal Wireless Service facility is defined by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) as such:

"Personal wireless facilities are transmitters, antenna structures and other types of installations used for the provision of personal wireless services. Section 704 defines personal wireless services to include a broad range of spectrum-based services. All commercial mobile services fall within the definition of personal wireless services. Elsewhere in the statute, commercial mobile services have been defined as mobile services that are for-profit, are available to the public or a substantial portion of the public, and provide subscribers with the ability to access or receive calls from the public switched telephone network. Common examples of commercial mobile services are personal communications services (PCS), cellular radio mobile service and paging. Personal wireless services also includes unlicensed wireless services, which are services that are not licensed by the Commission, but are deployed through equipment that is authorized by the Commission. Finally, personal wireless services include common carrier wireless exchange access services, which are offerings designed as competitive alternatives to traditional wireline local exchange providers."

So basically, what the FCC is saying here, is that a Personal wireless facility are Cell phone and paging services, plain and simple. Nothing else needs to be read into it or does every other type of communication service need to be put under the same classification. They also define the Amateur Radio service as:

"A radio communication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest."

They also define the Basis and Purpose of the Amateur Radio Service as such:

"The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill."

So I'm hoping that will be enough to help them understand the differences between the two types of services. I did get an email back from the Building Director that my request for exemption is still under consideration and I should know something more by next week. I'm praying and keeping my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed Smiley

John K7KB
Logged
WN2C
Member

Posts: 466




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2011, 09:12:49 AM »

Govern mental bureaucratic idiots!  People who work for governments do the things they do because that's the way it's always been! I know. I work for a government agency and there is just no common sense in the policies they come up with.
Logged
KC6YFR
Member

Posts: 14




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2011, 06:23:50 PM »

One of the best days of my life was the day we left Spokane.
After two years of trying the get a teaching job in the State of Washington, we left. As soon as they saw that I was from California, it was over for me. I could go and on about their provincial attitudes but I'd be accused of stealing this thread.
KC6YFR
Logged
KI4SDY
Member

Posts: 1452




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2011, 07:23:59 PM »

Never ask for a permit!  Roll Eyes
Logged
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3894




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2011, 05:48:12 AM »

What questions does the 18 page form actually ask? What does it take to just fill it out?

73 de Jim, N2EY

Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2011, 09:04:51 PM »

Jim: Here is the link for the Spokane County SEPA Checklist:

http://www.spokanecounty.org/BP/data/Forms/sepa.pdf

If you sit down and read it, the first thing that becomes obvious is that it was intended for medium to large scale construction that could pose a significant impact to the environment, and I certainly don't feel that a Amateur Radio tower would pose that kind of threat. I have more news to post on my permit request and I'll fill the rest of you in tomorrow. I was hoping for better news but it seems like I'm not having much luck so far.

I have already filled out the form. 95% of it can be answered "No, None, or N/A". However, it will pose an extra expense to Hams here in Spokane of around $200 and up, depending on how long it takes for them to complete their review. An expense that shouldn't be necessary in the first place. And from what I can understand, it could take up to 90 days before they make a determination, so a unnecessary delay as well.

John K7KB
« Last Edit: April 21, 2011, 09:24:40 PM by K7KB » Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2011, 09:10:25 PM »

Never ask for a permit!  Roll Eyes

I know what you are saying. After what I've been going through so far, I can certainly understand why some people don't bother getting a permit no matter what kind of construction they do. Seems that when you try and do the right thing, THAT's when you get into trouble Smiley

John K7KB
Logged
N2EY
Member

Posts: 3894




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2011, 03:29:48 AM »

Jim: Here is the link for the Spokane County SEPA Checklist:

http://www.spokanecounty.org/BP/data/Forms/sepa.pdf

Thanks!

If you sit down and read it, the first thing that becomes obvious is that it was intended for medium to large scale construction that could pose a significant impact to the environment, and I certainly don't feel that a Amateur Radio tower would pose that kind of threat. I have more news to post on my permit request and I'll fill the rest of you in tomorrow. I was hoping for better news but it seems like I'm not having much luck so far.

I have already filled out the form. 95% of it can be answered "No, None, or N/A". However, it will pose an extra expense to Hams here in Spokane of around $200 and up, depending on how long it takes for them to complete their review. An expense that shouldn't be necessary in the first place. And from what I can understand, it could take up to 90 days before they make a determination, so a unnecessary delay as well.
What's going on is that "one size fits all" mentality. What they're afraid of is that, if they don't make everyone fill it out, that some of those medium-to-large folks won't.

It does seem like overkill for a 5x5 foundation.

The reason the fees are there is to keep taxes low. That way, only the folks who receive the benefit of building something have to pay for it.

73 es GL de Jim, N2EY
Logged
KG4RUL
Member

Posts: 2734


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2011, 06:01:15 AM »

Jim: Here is the link for the Spokane County SEPA Checklist:

http://www.spokanecounty.org/BP/data/Forms/sepa.pdf

.........

And, I am assuming that one of these is filled out for EVERY new construction project?  WOW, I am glad that I don't live there and want to construct a playhouse for my kids!

To use the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, to describe the genius who approved this form - "What a maroon"
Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2011, 11:32:07 AM »

Jim: Here is the link for the Spokane County SEPA Checklist:

http://www.spokanecounty.org/BP/data/Forms/sepa.pdf

.........

And, I am assuming that one of these is filled out for EVERY new construction project?  WOW, I am glad that I don't live there and want to construct a playhouse for my kids!

To use the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, to describe the genius who approved this form - "What a maroon"

Well it depends on what kind of construction it is. If it was 4 dwelling units or less, or a commercial building less than 4000 square feet in size, or ........, then it would be exempt under the "Flexible Thresholds" clause. Basically what it seems is that they throw the SEPA checklist at any type of construction they don't understand or not specifically spelled out in the Categorical Exemptions. The typical "CYA" Smiley Playhouses they can understand, but apparently they don't understand Amateur Radio towers.

John K7KB
Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2011, 12:22:20 PM »

Well here is the latest news on the SEPA process Spokane County was requiring me to go through on getting my permit. I was finally able to convince the local county clerk who was handling my case that a Amateur Radio Tower was not a Personal Wireless Communications facility. That's the good news. However, my wrongful assumption is that they would now throw out the checklist based on the fact that it should certainly fall under the Categorical Exemptions for minor new construction under what's called the "Flexible Thresholds" clause. Here is how it reads again under our state law:

"2. Administrative Categorical Exemptions
WAC 197-11-800 through -890.
• Minor new construction (not applicable when a rezone or air or water discharge
permit is required). These thresholds may be increased at the option of the local
government:
o 4 dwelling units (may be raised to 20)
o Certain farm structures up to 10,000 sf (may be raised to 30,000 sf)
o 4000 sf building (may be raised to 12,000 sf)
o 20 parking stalls (may be raised to 40 stalls)
o 100 cu. yds. of excavation over the life of the project (may be raised to 500 cu. yds."


As any of you probably know, a tower on a 25 square foot concrete foundation should certainly fall under a category of Minor New construction. However, since a tower is not mentioned anywhere in the exemptions they are not allowing the permit without going through the SEPA process. They did get a outside legal consultant to give them his opinion and here is what he said:

The definition of “personal wireless service facilities” in WAC 197-11-800(25)(b)(i) does not include a ham radio tower, as a ham radio (noncommercial and licensed by the FCC) is neither a commercial mobile service, an unlicensed wireless service, and or common carrier wireless exchange access service.  So, the categorical exemption in that subsection would not apply to a ham radio antenna tower.  As a result, there does not appear to be a SEPA categorical exemption for such towers, though you would think there maybe should be an exemption.  So, if the county requires some sort of approval for a ham radio tower, the applicant would have to submit a SEPA checklist.
 
In case you’re not aware of this, the FCC issued a 1985 ruling, known as PRB-1 (Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 85-506), Federal Preemption of State and Local Regulations Pertaining to Amateur Radio Facilities), that established a limited federal preemption policy regarding ham radio antenna towers. The ruling does not specify any particular height limitation below which a local government may not regulate them, but it states, somewhat vaguely in my opinion, that "local regulations which involve placement, screening, or height of antennas based on health, safety, or aesthetic considerations must be crafted to accommodate reasonably amateur communications, and to represent the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the local authority's legitimate purpose." Section 25, PRB-1.  In addition, an FCC regulation on ham radio antennas, 47 C.F.R. § 97.15, states in part:
 
“State and local regulation of a station antenna structure must not preclude amateur service communications. Rather, it must reasonably accommodate such communications and must constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the state or local authority’s legitimate purpose.”
 
Hope this is of help.
 
Bob Meinig
MRSC Legal Consultant"


Mr. Meinig works for Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington and provides legal opinion to various municipalities in our state. And I would imagine gets their income from the same source. So I'm going to assume that he might be a bit biased in his opinion, however, at least he did clear up the Personal Wireless Communications issue. But the county doesn't require any special approval for a Ham Radio tower like he mentioned. It's already covered under local zoning as a "Tower, Private" and is allowable up to 75 feet. And he even thought it should be exempt under the SEPA Categorical exemptions.

However, I'm not having much luck getting the county to understand, as hard as I try. I am finding more hams in the area that want to put up a tower and I'm trying to arrange a meeting to see how we want to proceed. I'm also going to post another message on here asking whether or not other hams here in Washington State are being required to go through the SEPA process.

So this is how it stands now. I'll keep you posted Smiley

John K7KB

Logged
K7KB
Member

Posts: 607




Ignore
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2011, 02:58:57 PM »

Jim: Here is the link for the Spokane County SEPA Checklist:

http://www.spokanecounty.org/BP/data/Forms/sepa.pdf

Thanks!

If you sit down and read it, the first thing that becomes obvious is that it was intended for medium to large scale construction that could pose a significant impact to the environment, and I certainly don't feel that a Amateur Radio tower would pose that kind of threat. I have more news to post on my permit request and I'll fill the rest of you in tomorrow. I was hoping for better news but it seems like I'm not having much luck so far.

I have already filled out the form. 95% of it can be answered "No, None, or N/A". However, it will pose an extra expense to Hams here in Spokane of around $200 and up, depending on how long it takes for them to complete their review. An expense that shouldn't be necessary in the first place. And from what I can understand, it could take up to 90 days before they make a determination, so a unnecessary delay as well.
What's going on is that "one size fits all" mentality. What they're afraid of is that, if they don't make everyone fill it out, that some of those medium-to-large folks won't.

It does seem like overkill for a 5x5 foundation.

The reason the fees are there is to keep taxes low. That way, only the folks who receive the benefit of building something have to pay for it.

73 es GL de Jim, N2EY

The thing is, they don't make everyone fill it out. I looked over a list of Spokane SEPA reviews over the last 5 years and it becomes very obvious that almost all of the reviews were for commercial companies for medium to large scale construction and certainly not down to the scale for a Amateur tower.

I have no doubt, it is definitely overkill for a 5 foot by 5 foot foundation.

And believe me, I pay my share of Spokane County taxes. They don't need to get anymore beyond the normal building permit fees Smiley

John K7KB
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!