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Towers and Municipalities!(long)

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Subject: Towers and Municipalities!(long)
From: (Floyd Soo, KF8AT)
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 16:53:07 -0700

I applaud your efforts as a law abiding citizen.  I hope that you are not 
planning on doing any operating for the next few years!  If you are going 
to attempt to "educate" your local zoning boards and city commissioners, 
please realize that most of them do not have your best interest in mind! 
They have their own best interests in mind!  You will be tied up with 
litigation that will break you!  Why am I such a cynic, you ask?  Been 
There, Done That!

I feel I can say these things because I have gone down the road that 
you're looking to travel!  I thought that I had it made here, and wanted 
to do the "right" thing and be above board and legal, get my neighbor's 
approvals, etc, etc.  What I found was the same ulterior motives that I 
have seen in more troubled municipalities.

Here's some background.  My wife and I searched for two full years to try 
and find a home with more than the usual postage stamp sized lot, so I 
could put up a small tower.  My plans were for a light duty Rohn BX-64, 
which I had in the garage of the present home at the time for 5 years!  I 
had a typical 60 x 120 lot in a crowded sub and we decided that the next 
house we buy, we would get enough land to put the tower up.  The house we 
finally found was on 3 acres, the house was only 5 years old, we had 
plenty of space and was very happy to find that there was no CC&Rs to 
worry about (a question I always asked)!  There was also no mandatory 
homeowner's assn!  Great!  The original developer of the sub was a ham 
back in the 50s, so he agreed, that this would be a great spot and 
encouraged me to continue!  I had plenty of woods behind the house, with 
most of the trees in the high ground about 30' tall.  My plans were to 
put the tower 300' behind the house to keep the asthetics of our dream 
home intact and to keep much of the RF away from the house.  

I investigated more and started to talk to other hams in the community.  
A ham that lived 5 miles away from me had a PAIR of 135' towers in his 
back yard and he had a variance and permit for them.  I thought I had it 
made!  There were at least a handful more hams that had towers and 
permits!  They all said that it shouldn't be a problem!  Great, I said!

I then talked to all my neighbors.  Now with 3 acre lots, even going 
300-500' out didn't put me in touch with more than a handful of people.  
Luckily, my neighbors had no problem with my hobby, my tower or my site 
plan; which I was submitting to the Bldg Dept and the zoning board of 
appeals.  There is a 35' height restriction, but it didn't seem to deter 
anybody else.  

My mistake #1.  I contacted the VOLUNTARY homeowner's assn to give them 
the courtesy of knowledge.  I new full well that this assn had no real 
legal juice.  If anybody didn't agree with the assn, too bad!  Well, the 
pres said she didn't have any problem with my hobby or my antennas, 
but she would oppose any and all variances in the sub, because "it would 
set a dangerous precedent"!  Her (and the BoD's) attitude was that once 
any variance was granted, then all variances would be granted in the 

Mistake #2.  I applied for the variance anyway, thinking that if all 
those other hams had them, I should be a shoe in!  This also lent 
credibility to the zoning board.  Of course, my feeling now is that they 
don't have any say in what we hams do, cuz of PRB-1. Too bad this is not 
a perfect world!

Mistake #3.  I went into the zba meeting ALONE!  This was a gross error 
in judgment!  Just because all the Bldg Inspectors and the secretaries 
and the other hams and the 2 attorneys I consulted said that everything 
looked good for me, I should have taken the big gun engineers and 
attorneys in there with me (assuming going before the zba was deemed 

The UNOFFICIAL homeowner's assn showed up en masse!  They called all 
their tea time friends from all over the sub.  Now remember, all my 
neighbors signed my affidavit saying they had no problem with my plans.  
Neighbors from 1/2 to 3/4 miles away came to this meeting to protest this 
ugly, dangerous thing!  After satisfying ALL questions of safety, RFI, 
etc.  The only thing they could go on was the asthetics.  The only 
problem was, NOBODY, not one single member of the zba came out to look at 
the site in person like they told me they were going to do!  So, even 
though my tower was going to be 64' tall, surrounded by 30'-80' trees on 
all sides , will sit 300' behind the house, which puts it 400' from the 

I was going to sue the township, all the board members and anybody else I 
drag into the fight!  I was pissed!  Finally, after my attorney (who is a 
VERY well known plaintiff's attorney here in the Detroit area), told me 
to take the path of least resistance and save my $25K-30K!  I was shocked 
at first!  I was ready to take this to the Supremem Court!  Good judgment 
prevailed, and I applied for my 35' permit, which I got without any 
trouble.  The sympathetic inspector told me: "WOW, that huge concrete 
footing can support a MUCH larger tower than the 35' one you are 
installing!"  He also said that after he sees the footing, the grounding 
system, and the tower at less than 35' with no antennas or feedlines; he 
would have NO OTHER reason to come back, especially if none of the 
neighbors complained (hint-hint, nod-nod, wink-wink)!  Trees grow every 
year, etc, etc.  I'm not sure how far down the road he was when a couple 
of extra sections mysteriously dissappeared from the ground...hhmmm!

Now the TA-33 rests at 50" and the VHF/UHF yagi is at 57'.  I went to the 
annual meeting of the homeowner's assn not quite a year later (so I knew 
what they were up to!), and was thanked for compromising on my plans for 
the tower!  I got a formal apology from the most vocal opponent at the 
zba, as well as a formal welcome to the sub!  I had other neighbors come 
up to me and ask: "What tower?"!!!

Hopefully, the zba and the assn have moved on to other issues and have 
forgotten about me and my tower!  BTW, I water and fertilize my tower 

What will I do, if the township decides to mess with me?  Well, it will 
be their money that will be paying for the litigation against me.  PRB-1 
is easier to enforce with the township coming after a ham that has the OK 
of his neighbors and is active with many different public service 
organizations, like RACES/ARES, Skywarn, SATERN, MARS, etc.   Hopefully, 
it will not come to that!

Floyd, KF8AT

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