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Concord - A Turn For The Worse

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Subject: Concord - A Turn For The Worse
From: (Stan Griffiths)
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 11:14:22 -0800 (PST)
>I just love these notices I get from the city only hours away from important 
>Today's mail had a real gem.  It's a report to the planning commission 
>prepared by staff, for the public hearing concerning my tower permit 
>application TOMORROW NIGHT.
>The staff recommends the project be "denied without prejudice".
>I thought the study session went very well.  I thought the city attorney made 
>it clear that denial was really not an option.  Oh well.
>They cite incompatibility with the existing neighborhood as their sole reason. 
> They suggest that the applicant pursue less obtrusive antennas such as "flat 
>panels, small dishes, and shorter monopoles without cross elements" (whatever 
>that means).  The applicant could re-apply and go through this whole 6 month 
>process all over again!  Cheers!
>I'm still going to go tomorrow night and give it my best shot, but with the 
>staff recommendation against me, I don't hold out much hope.  Very little 
>I'll be smiling as usual.
>Anyone ever hear of a commission ruling the opposite way from staff 
>Best Regards,
>Joe Spinosa
>Concord, CA

Actually, yes, Joe.  I once had a tower decision go my way against the staff
recomendation.  It was a long time ago and I barely squeaked by.

In 1973, I moved into a single family dwelling in Aloha, OR which is an
unincorporated part of Washington County.  County land use rules prevail
when there is no city in the area where you live.

I proposed two 100 foot towers.  The County Planning Commission was going to
decide if I could have them.  There were no ordinances prohibiting them.  I
checked that very carefully before buying my house!  Unbeknownst to me,
there existed a "Staff" which goes out and investigates proposed structures
like my towers and makes recommendations to the Planning Commission.  At my
hearing, I was completely surprised by the existence of the "staff" and
their report which recommended against my towers by "visual impact" reasons
only.  The county Planning Commission followed the Staff's recommendation
and denied my permit.  I had paid an unrefunadable $50 fee (1973 dollars)
just so I could get a hearing.

I found out there was an appeal process that involved appealing the Planning
Commission decision to the Board of County Commissioners.  The
non-refundable appeal fee was $25.  This time I did some homework.  I took
pictures of the area the Staff claimed my towers would make unsightly.  The
Staff claimed my antennas would make the view looking south from Highway 8
unsightly.  My pictures showed a railroad track, lots of power poles and
high tension lines complete with transformers, etc., a commercial concrete
company's facility complete with parking lot for a couple of dozen cement
trucks (and a commercial antenna on the top of their building for
dispatching the trucks).  In other words, THERE WAS NO WAY my towers could
ruin that view!!

At the appeal, I was not allowed to present my pictures.  I found out
(surprise, surprise) that I could not bring anything "new" to the table at
an appeal that was not already presented in the original hearing.  Never
mind that I had NO IDEA that I would have to defend my permit application on
the basis visual impact.  In any case, the Board consisted of 5
Commissioners and normally only 4 of them vote.  The Chairman usually only
votes to break a 2--2 tie, if one exists, although he has the right to vote
on every issue.  Well, when my appeal was heard, only 4 Commissioners were
present since one had excused himself from the hearing just before mine and
made it back just in time to vote.  He chose to abstain since he had not
heard any of the appeal.  Sooooo . . . The vote was 2 to 1 IN FAVOR of me,
except the Chairman chose to excercise his right to vote and voted AGAINST
me.  In this case, the Chainman's vote created a tie and in appeal cases, a
tie vote upholds the original decision, therefore, I lost.

The fifth Commissioner stood up and suggested that the appeal be heard again
so he could actually vote.  They set aside the decision and a new appeal
hearing was set for two week later.

I REALLY went to work at that point.  I found a Circuit Court Judge (W7AGQ)
to help me influence the Commissioners.  He wrote letters, made phone calls,
and helped in many ways.  At the second appeal hearing, I won 3 to 2.  My
towers are still up . . .

That is ancient history.  Today, the situation is quite different and I am
sure I  would never be allowed to have any tower here.  It would now cost me
a couple of thousand (non-refundable) dollars to be denied.  Washington
County Oregon is extremely unfriendly to ham towers and I always recommend
that new hams in the area either live inside a city that IS friendly or move
to a different county.  The only other viable option is to isolate yourself
as much as possible from the rest of the community and simply put up your
stuff without official permission.  I know many guys will gasp at that
suggestion, but the facts are that there are 10 successful "illegal"
installations up for for every one that has permission in this county.  I
don't know of ANY that have obtained permission to go over 60 feet since
mine in 1973 and I only know of one or two that have obtained any permission
at all.

It is a sad state of affairs for ham radio and I simply do not know anything
that can be done about it.  Believe me, an active group of 1500 hams have
tried, for two years and to no avail, to get decent ham radio tower
ordinances passed in Washington County.  If you want a tower, don't move
here . . . or, wait until I croak and buy my place from my widow with the
towers already installed . . . unfortunately for you, I am only 58 and I
will probably live another 30 years.


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