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Author Topic: $300 for a variance hearing in my back yard?  (Read 19180 times)
WALTERB
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Posts: 534




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« on: May 20, 2011, 12:44:33 PM »

Ok,  I’ve been planning to put up a hexbeam in the backyard. I wanted it about 40 feet up.  I didn’t think I needed to do anything other than perhaps a building permit since I don’t live in an incorporated area. So I called the county zoning office.  They claim I need to shell out $300 just for a variance hearing since my antenna will be up higher than 20 feet.  They will quiz my neighbors who if they object means I’m out $300.

My question is, is it too late to take up stamp collecting?    Grin
 
Seriously,  is this sort thing normal and is there some sort of Homeland security clause or something to get around it?
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VE3FMC
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 01:17:22 PM »

I think you need to talk to your lawyer or go above the personal in the Zoning Bylaws to find out if this is correct.

Check the county laws and see if you can find out if there are restrictions on tower height etc.
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N2EY
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 01:27:10 PM »

If the zoning ordinances limit height to 20 feet, you may need a variance. $300 fee isn't unusual IMLE

But check with a real estate attorney, and talk to the appropriate county folks about procedure. They may not fully understand what you're asking for.

Where are you?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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WALTERB
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 01:46:11 PM »

I think you need to talk to your lawyer or go above the personal in the Zoning Bylaws to find out if this is correct.

Check the county laws and see if you can find out if there are restrictions on tower height etc.

A ham less than one mile away from me has a tower that has to be 200 feet. (this guy was really into his hobby until his death early this year).
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WALTERB
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Posts: 534




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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2011, 01:46:44 PM »

If the zoning ordinances limit height to 20 feet, you may need a variance. $300 fee isn't unusual IMLE

But check with a real estate attorney, and talk to the appropriate county folks about procedure. They may not fully understand what you're asking for.

Where are you?

73 de Jim, N2EY

Illinois.  Madison county
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 21757




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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2011, 01:48:48 PM »

I'd certainly want to have a copy of the ordinance myself.  I'd never just take somebody's word for this.

"Most" (not all) municipalities and counties differentiate between a hobby and business, and wrote more restrictive ordinances over the years to help limit the number of cell phone towers they'd have to deal with; and then the clerk interprets that to mean all towers, when it doesn't.

Normally in a variance application, "they" don't contact your neighbors: You do.  I don't think I've ever heard of a place where the zoning board, or the court, or any official agency does that.  They leave it up to the applicant, and you provide signatures from your neighbors saying they don't object to whatever it is you're doing.
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2011, 02:11:31 PM »

I'd certainly want to have a copy of the ordinance myself.  I'd never just take somebody's word for this.

I agree 100%. My township has the ordinances online, yours may too.


"Most" (not all) municipalities and counties differentiate between a hobby and business, and wrote more restrictive ordinances over the years to help limit the number of cell phone towers they'd have to deal with; and then the clerk interprets that to mean all towers, when it doesn't.

Normally in a variance application, "they" don't contact your neighbors: You do.  I don't think I've ever heard of a place where the zoning board, or the court, or any official agency does that.  They leave it up to the applicant, and you provide signatures from your neighbors saying they don't object to whatever it is you're doing.

In my township and county, neighbors are notified by mail. "Neighbor" is defined by "property within 500 feet". In the case of applications that may have stormwater impact, the definition may include neighbors farther away who are upstream or downstream.

The notice consists of the Zoning Hearing Board agenda for the upcoming meeting. It's up to the neighbor to read the notice, figure out if s/he has standing and an objection, and present the objection to the ZHB at the meeting. Most variance-seekers get neighbors to sign no-objection letters to strengthen their position.

Most properly-filed variance applications I have seen are approved unless there is strong and reasonable opposition, or if the variance is really major (commercial operation in a purely residential zone).

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AD6KA
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Posts: 2243




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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2011, 02:19:20 PM »

Maybe contact your ARRL Section Manager and
ask him if there is a Volunteer Counsel for your area. (Free ham lawyer).
The Section Manager's contact info is in QST magazine
and available at the ARRL website.

Is there a ham radio tower contractor in your area?
(Ask some hams who have towers, maybe they used the same guy).
He would also be a good source of information.

Good luck.
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KD4LLA
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Posts: 500




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« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2011, 03:54:18 PM »

"I wanted it about 40 feet up."  Since you live in an unincorporated area I would put it up first and ask questions later.

I also live in the sticks.  Forty feet would still be below my tree level, no  one would even see it unless they come up the drive a ways.  I have had a 3 element beam and vertical up above the house roof (35 feet) for ten years -- no  one sees it is there, until they visit up close and I point it out to them.

My brother and  built a cabin (16x20) on our riverbank a number of years ago (2003).  No permit, just put it up.  Well one of the neighbors whined, we had to file for a $35 permit for a shed and that was the end of that.

Some times it is easier to take a chewing out than asking for permission...

Mike
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W6RMK
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Posts: 680




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« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2011, 05:07:55 PM »

$300 isn't unreasonable for the hearing, if it's required.  All the previous advice is well said, about verifying whether you really fit in the "need a variance" bucket, but if you do, that's a reasonable price for a hearing.

Here's why:  Municipalities are strapped for cash, so they've very much gone to a "fee for service" sort of model.  That hearing probably requires an hour of preparation for staff, with at least one person, perhaps two.  It wouldn't surprise me if the staff planner has a notional "billing rate" of $100/hr or more (salary, heat, light, rent, overheads to support clerical staff, benefits, etc.).  If someone has to go out and post notices, do inspections, etc. that just adds to the cost.

Here in Thousand Oaks, it costs $600 for a tower permit for amateur radio, and that's a 50% discount from the cost if you weren't an amateur.  (For a small tower.. cell towers are more, of course).

Realistically, they figure that's reasonable in the context of a construction job that is in the $10k range (assuming you bought new tower and gear, and paid someone to install it).  That's what building permits for ANY sort of construction run these days.  It's over $100 to get an electrical permit to run another branch circuit, and when I asked why, they showed me the actual costs of doing it.  They have to record this, and record that, and have 2 or 3 different people review it, not to mention the inspector coming out and doing the inspection. Then, there's the proportionate cost of maintaining the records, etc.  (Sometimes, I think the frenzy for allocation of costs adds more than the actual cost being allocated.. like hospitals charging for each ibuprofen tablet individually)

Planning has to review it in terms of whether your proposed work fits within the zoning, building and safety has to review it to see whether it's safe.  For run of the mill stuff, there's a blanket approvals, but still, someone has to make the official determination that it's run of the mill, and that has to be documented somewhere so that if someone complains 10 years from now, they can say, "yep, we reviewed it"

You might think all the reviews are excessive, but hey, that's the way the laws read (in general, passed by initiative).  Someone does something spectacularly egregious, public outcry says "we're never going to let that happen again, let's impose a review requirement". 

Most people getting work done aren't aware of it, because it's just part of the contractor's bid; they gripe about the overall high cost of construction in general.
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KI4SDY
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2011, 07:41:30 PM »

Never ask for a permit!  Roll Eyes
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W3WN
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Posts: 756




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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 10:40:54 AM »

Call up the ARRL, find out who the Volunteer Counsel is for your area, and a schedule a consultation.  First one is free.  [I have that direct from MY lawyer, who also happens to be a VC]

You may have been given incorrect or obsolete information by someone in the municipal offices who didn't understand Amateur Radio, or is thinking of something else.  Or they may have a zoning ordinance that does not comply with current Federal (ie PRB-1) and State regulations. 

My point is that you need to know where you stand before you do anything.  The VC is (usually) a ham, who knows the rules, and can tell you what you can do, and what you can't.  And how to proceed. 

I personally would NOT, in this day and age, at this point simply put up an antenna and pretend I didn't now about a permit.  Sad to say, there are those who would take you to court, if and when they found out about it, and get an court order to force you to take it down.  You've already opened the door, so it's not worth the risk.

Oh, and regarding your SK neighbor down the road who already has (had) a tower... it might have predated current zoning, or he might have gone through the process and gotten proper permits, or any of a hundred other things.  At least you know that it is possible to get a tower or antenna support up.
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W4VKU
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Posts: 393




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« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2011, 02:44:12 PM »

How about putting the hex on a crankup "mast".?
Bracket it to the house and it is not free standing.
It is not up all the time at the specified height, until it is in use.
Now, do you still need a variance under the new parameters?
-Krish
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K4FH
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Posts: 52




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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2011, 07:24:11 AM »

I live outside of a city and last year received a notification from a neighbour that wanted a variance.  They wanted to add an access ramp to their home and they were moving a disable family member in to take care of them.  Why they needed a variance I do not know.  I had no objection to what they were doing.  Their notification included property info as well as a hearing date.
 
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N2EY
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Posts: 4641




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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2011, 07:32:37 AM »

I live outside of a city and last year received a notification from a neighbour that wanted a variance.  They wanted to add an access ramp to their home and they were moving a disable family member in to take care of them.  Why they needed a variance I do not know.  I had no objection to what they were doing.  Their notification included property info as well as a hearing date.
 

The most likely reason they needed a variance for the ramp is that it did not conform with some aspect of the zoning code, such as a setback requirement. (A ramp would be defined as part of the house structure, while a sidewalk would not). Another possibility is that the ramp increased the amount of impervious and/or building surface beyond the maximum allowed on the property.

In any event, you were notified so that you could oppose it if you thought it was a problem.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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