Tower – Part 1

Last fall I decided that I would like to start construction of a small tower in spring ’09.  I wasn’t sure how many hoops the city would make me jump through, so I got started on that process nice and early.

And I’m glad I did.  Turns out there is a height limit on “structures” in the City of Independence of 30 feet or two stories.    An antenna, even a roof mounted one, is considered a “structure”.  They told me my only hope of erecting a tower was to go before the board of adjustment, and that required paying a fee of $100 just to get them to meet.  I tried to explain PRB-1 to the city building official, but he would have none of that.

So I went home, feeling somewhat defeated, but certainly not ready to give up.  And not ready to pay $100 either.

It is interesting to note at this point that not only does PRB-1 say that a ham radio operator can build a tower, but there are other rules that could kick in here as well.

As directed by Congress in Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers’ ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites (“DBS”), broadband radio service providers (formerly multichannel multipoint distribution service or MMDS), and television broadcast stations (“TVBS”).

The rule (47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000) has been in effect since October 1996, and it prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming. The rule applies to video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37″) in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas. The rule prohibits most restrictions that: (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

I’m having great difficulty receiving Direct Broadcast Satellite programming from the 129W location due to a tree on my neighbors property, this prevents reception of Cedar Rapids HD locals via Dish Network, my multi-channel provider.  I also cannot recieve KIIN-DT, and since that station is technically in the Nielson market serving Independence I would be allowed to install a TV antenna to receive it.  Never mind that I can receive KRIN-DT just fine.

So I put together a large packet of information that included a copy PRB-1, the FCC OTARD Fact Sheet, and some background information on Amateur Radio, including a list of local, state, and federal agencies that are served by Hams.  I sent these packets to the city council person for my ward, the at-large council person, the city building inspector, the city manager, the mayor, and the city attorney.

On December 1, 2008, I received a letter from the City of Independence giving me permission to install an amateur radio antenna tower in my yard.  However, they still require me to obtain a building permit first.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they still have something up their sleeve.

More on this subject to come.

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