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I live in upstate South Carolina.

I contacted the city and the person who answered the phone call said it would be a new structure and can't be higher the the house on the property.

I looked at the county the city is in and they do not have any stipulations on ham radio antennas and towers, except that they are free to be up to 100ft, and if taller is needed, a form to apply for a tower greater then 100ft is available.

Looking at the federal government on the use of a tower for a license amateur radio operator, I read that it is fine and a city can not limit the height of the tower.

The amateur radio frequencies can be impaired if the proper heights are not met.

I am not in an HOA and there are no rules on the use of amateur radio antennas or any type of antennas in my neighborhood.

Does anyone know what can I do to get permission or a permit from my city so I can install a 50ft tower? Is there a ruling or a federal form that I can pursue to gather all the appropriate paperwork before I go to the city hall to apply?

It seemed the person I spoke with may not have been familiar with this issue. I did look up laws on amateur radio antennas in the city, and a commercial tower can not be put up in a residential area, but this does not apply to a licensed amateur radio operator. I mentioned this and he said as long as it does not exceed the height of the house. He obviously does not understand why the tower has to be taller then the house.

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    $\begingroup$ Hire a lawyer with actual knowledge of the area of law and the legal system in your jurisdiction. Playing lawyer yourself, or taking legal advice from people who can't represent you in court, is fraught with dangers, as well as being ignored by city officials. Cost less than potentially having to tear down a tower that violates some random hidden paperwork. $\endgroup$
    – hotpaw2
    Jun 27 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, hire a lawyer if the local government doesn't play ball. As an amateur in the US (and Canada) you are entitled to a fair and reasonable access to your privileges. Including the ability to erect safe antenna systems on your private property. $\endgroup$
    – user21417
    Jun 27 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ I will also add my usual comment about contacting your local club. A club will often have members that have already gone through this process, and in many cases clubs will have templates you can use for submitting your elevation plans and construction details (etc.) to the right folks for approval. In fact, make sure you check the ARRL because they might also have resources for you to use for this purpose. In Canada you also have to notify your neighbours in an X radius, where X is derived from the height of the proposed tower. Having a nice canned example of that notification is handy, too. $\endgroup$
    – user21417
    Jun 27 at 18:59

2 Answers 2

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I read it is fine and a city can not limit the height of the tower.

They can, but they can't unreasonably limit it. Saying "no structures higher than the house" is unreasonable.

What you're interested in is "PRB-1", which says that, in essence, since radio communications is a federal function regulated by the FCC, state and local zoning laws can't encroach on the FCC's authority when it comes to radio communications, including amateur radio. Further useful commentary on PRB-1 is provided by Fred K1VR.

What you do is go back to your city's zoning office, bring them a copy of PRB-1 and point them to 47 CFR 97.15(b). Tell them that you're interested in making a reasonable compromise with them on the matter of building something that's safe and not an eyesore — while making it clear to them that if they don't work with you, you will sue them and win, and they will have a bad day, because "local regulations which involve placement, screening, or height of antennas based on health, safety, or aesthetic considerations must be crafted to accommodate reasonably amateur communications, and to represent the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the local authority's legitimate purpose", or they are null and void.

In particular, fixed height limits are not valid. Requiring you to engineer the hell out of a tower if it's less than its own height from your property line is something they can do. Blanket banning a tower over a certain height for safety or aesthetic reasons without considering the use it will be put to or the benefits conferred by that height isn't.

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Also check on how close you are to any local airports. Proximity to an airport will also impose limits on the height of antennas and towers.

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  • $\begingroup$ That only really comes into play with structures higher than some reasonable height. This is why most, if not all, of the bylaws related to non-commercial structures have a height that triggers more comprehensive land-use process. $\endgroup$
    – user21417
    Jun 29 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer Jim. $\endgroup$
    – pgibbons
    Aug 4 at 17:50

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