Under current provisions in the Franklin County VA code, (a mostly rural low
population density area) the setback requirements are 120% of the tower
height as well as 500' from the closest neighbors dwelling. Most
surrounding counties have reasonable codes, and the state code is very ham
friendly, but so far this has not influenced the local ordinance. While the
verbage clearly suggests it was written with cell phone towers in mind,
amateur radio towers are being included in enforcement proceedings. Appeal
and legal fees are mounting with no end in sight.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Kelly Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Jim Lux" <email@example.com>
Cc: "Tower Talk List" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, September 02, 2007 12:47 PM
Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Setback requirements
> On 9/2/07, Jim Lux <email@example.com> wrote:
> > Kelly wrote:
> > These types of set back limits *should* be easy to fight. How many
> > ordinances can you name that allow for a 35 foot tall house to be
> > erected 10 feet from the property line? How many cities allow 10
> > story tall buildings to be built right next to someone else's
> > property? What about skyscrapers next to public streets? What if the
> > skyscraper falls? They never fall, right? Remember 9/11? Remember
> > San Franciso earthquakes? If towers must be a distance from the
> > property line equal to their height, then so should every other
> > manmade structure. What about street light poles? What about utility
> > poles? They don't have to meet these requirements. Why ham and cell
> > towers? It's simple. These types of set back rules are simply
> > another "back door" way of limiting tower height. They have nothing
> > to do with safety.
> > ----------
> > A couple significant differences..
> > 1) People have been building houses for centuries, so there is extensive
> > experience and tradition with allowing small setbacks
> Towers and other structures are built ALL THE TIME which are tall
> enough that they could cause significant damage to the public or to
> neighboring properties should they fall. Why is that? Simple.
> Someone decided that the risk was worth the reward AND they required
> it to be structurally sound. Ham towers and cell towers can also be
> made just as structurally sound to reduce the risk to the same level
> as these other structures. So, why are ham towers and cell towers
> then limited when these other structures are not? Simple, because
> people want the height limited not because of safety but for
> aesthetics. Is it 100% "safe" to fly commercial airliners over
> residential neighborhoods on their approach to an urban/suburban
> airport? Of course not. There are numerous cases of plane crashes in
> residential neighborhoods which killed numerous people. Do we ban
> urban/suburban airports? Of course not. Do we require a 100% safety
> margin? Of course not. We make things as safe as possible and live
> with the remaining small amount of risk. Why then, do ham towers have
> to have a 100% safety margin?
> I have absolutely no problem with requiring ham towers to be
> structurally sound and to go through similar safety analysis as
> commercial towers, esp. when they are close to a setback or property
> line. What I DO have a problem with is the unvarying height limits
> for towers which are there only to limit the number of NIMBY's that
> will complain (due to aesthetics) rather than improve safety. If you
> want to improve safety, then improve safety, don't just limit height.
> Most height limits are there for aesthetic purposes, not safety.
> Actually, I suggest that the height limits are there specifically to
> limit the number of NIMBY complaints. A 35 foot tower is FAR MORE
> intrusive for my next door neighbor than an 80 footer. All of the
> aluminum is at 35 feet instead of 80. My neighbor would rather I have
> an 80 footer than a 35 footer. The guy one block away, however, would
> rather I have a 35 footer because then he can't see it. So, which
> tower will draw more complaints at City Hall? The 80 footer of course
> and THAT's why they like to limit height.
> > 2) Houses are typically wider than they are tall, so they tend to fall
> > in place because of the internal bracing. Towers are long and skinny
> Agreed, but what about skyscrapers? What about Sutro tower in San
> Francisco? What about the Bay Bridge? What about billboards, utility
> poles, etc.? What about any number of other "structures" which are
> allowed to be tall enough that if they fell over they'd land on
> private property? They are essentially allowed because someone
> determined that the public good was more important than a 100% safety
> margin. Ham towers aren't given that level of importance.
> > 3) Tall Commercial buildings *do* require failure analyses
> And ham towers should be required to meet safety standards as well, if
> they are close enough to setback/lot-line to potentially cause damage.
> Make them safe! No problem with that.
> > 4) there *are* restrictions on types of construction and design to
> > prevent buildings from falling into the street in an earthquake. Heck,
> > as far back as the Field Act in California (resulting from the 1933 Long
> > Beach earthquake), but also more recently, all the seismic retrofit
> Once again, I have no problem with designing things more safely: more
> steel, more windload tolerance, bigger guy lines, whatever. What I
> have issue with is the height limit which limits towers to a height
> which is a function of its distance from a setback or lot-line when
> other similar structures (utility poles, street lights, skyscrapers,
> etc.) don't have the same type of restrictions.
> > towers, chimneys, etc are all regulated pretty much the same and have
> > been for decades.
> In most cases, towers and chimneys have height limits BUT I've never
> seen one that had a limit which was a function of distance from the
> setback. In San Jose, Ca. (where I used to live) your chimney could
> be 35 feet height and could be 10 feet from the property line.
> Nowhere in the rules did it say that your chimney height had to be <
> the distance from it to the property line (like many ham tower
> regulations around here do).
> > What's different is that hams are no longer getting a free pass on these
> > sorts of rules. And, in general, communities are being stricter in
> > general, and ham towers are just getting sucked along for the ride.
> How many times do I have to argue that additional safety is a good
> thing. Yes, hams in alot of cities have built some pretty unsafe
> structures close to neighboring homes and lot-lines. This should not
> be allowed. They should be required to make them safe. Putting a PE
> stamp on every page of a document doesn't seem to increase safety to
> me, BUT if doing that would get my permit OK'd then I'd happily do it.
> Fundamentally, my issue is this. I believe PRB-1 makes it clear that
> rejecting a tower request or limiting its height strictly on aesthetic
> grounds is not ok. So, cities use these types of "setback rules" in
> order to limit height and they say ("it's for the children") it's for
> safety reasons. I don't believe it is for safety reasons at all.
> It's really for aesthetic reasons, but they can't say that so they use
> "safety" which carries more weight. Sorta like hams that use "public
> safety" as their justification for their towers. I must admit, both
> sides are doing the same thing :-)
> > Jim, W6RMK
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