Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Mon Sep 11 07:41:28 CDT 2006

>From the ARRL Bulletin
André  N4ICK


The existence of Virginia's Amateur Radio antenna statute recently was
instrumental in convincing the Stafford County Board of Supervisors to adopt
changes that make it easier for radio amateurs to erect antenna support
structures. Tom Gregory, N4NW -- a former Virginia Section Emergency
Coordinator who lives in Stafford -- says that before the amendments went
into effect, an Amateur Radio licensee wanting to put up a tower could have
been asked to apply for a conditional use permit (CUP) and pay a $7500
filing fee. Gregory says that's because the old county ordinance did not
distinguish between Amateur Radio and cellular towers. The county didn't
necessarily oppose ham radio antennas, he said, but the application earlier
this year of Lewis Cheek, K4HR, to erect a 120-foot antenna support
structure apparently caught county officials unawares.

"It was more of a situation that county staff was incapable of making a
decision without clear guidelines to say that they could or could not do
something," said Gregory.

Stafford County's revised ordinance permits Amateur Radio operation "by
right" throughout the county, situated roughly halfway between Richmond and
Washington, DC. The changes require ham radio antenna support structures to
comply with zoning requirements applying to accessory structures in a given

Virginia's 1998 Amateur Radio antenna law
<http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+15.2-2293.1> is among
the few that go beyond merely incorporating the language of the PRB-1
limited federal preemption
<http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/local/prb-1.html> into state
statutes. It also provides minimum regulatory heights of either 75 feet or
200 feet for antenna support structures, depending upon population density.

Gregory says just having an Amateur Radio antenna law on the Commonwealth's
books helped get the situation off the dime in Stafford County.

"The fact that the Virginia state code specifically had some numbers in it
and some clear language in it, that carried more weight with [county
officials] than what PRB-1 says, which basically says, 'you'll accommodate
the amateur,' but doesn't give any guidelines to localities," Gregory said.
It didn't hurt either when the specter of litigation was raised. The county
attorney told the Board of Supervisors that, given Virginia's Amateur Radio
Antenna statute, the Board would be on shaky legal ground in trying to
require a CUP and likely would lose if the case landed in court, Gregory

Before even approaching the Stafford County Board of Supervisors with an eye
toward changing the ordinance, Cheek and Gregory boned up on antenna
restrictions via the ARRL Web site
<http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/antenna-restrictions.html> as
well as local codes and ordinances throughout the commonwealth. As a result,
Gregory said, they were able to educate county officials about ham radio and
its benefits to the community. Armed with extensive ARRL materials, a copy
of the Virginia Amateur Radio antenna law and the assistance of ARRL
Volunteer Counsel George Marzloff, K4GM, Gregory and Cheek testified before
the county Planning Commission to urge adoption of changes to permit Amateur
Radio by right.

Gregory, Cheek, and other radio amateurs, including Stafford County ARES
Emergency Coordinator Bart Bartholomew, N3GQ, also testified before the full
Board of Supervisors, which adopted the zoning ordinance revisions August 1.
The revised ordinance also specifically defines Amateur Radio for the first

Gregory encouraged radio amateurs in the 27 states lacking Amateur Radio
antenna laws to work toward getting one on the books.

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