Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur:
Third Edition (Spring 2021)
By Fred Hopengarten, K1VR
- No Antenna, No Ham Radio!
- Everything you and your attorney need to know to obtain a permit for your antenna-support system.
- What to do when things turn ugly after your antenna system is up.
- Book contains links to additional legal reference material, including case law and customizable forms.
Don’t let the confusing tangle of federal and state laws, as well as local ordinances and by-laws, keep you from installing the antenna you need for effective communication! In recent years, many cities and towns have enacted ordinances designed mainly to regulate cellular antenna structures. Unfortunately, hams have sometimes been caught in the backlash of regulatory overkill. This is a “how to” book, describing proven techniques and strategies to use in obtaining an antenna structure permit (also includes material on Canadian law and regulation, by Timothy Ellam, VE6SH). You will learn ways to respond to a wide variety of complaints after the permit has been obtained, if the town, or a neighbor, turns sour. The author, Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, writes in a lively, conversational tone that minimizes the numbing “legalese” sometimes used by lawyers.
About the Author
Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, is a passionate communications law attorney with wide experience in the land use issues of dishes and towers. He consults to venture capital firms interested in communications, does a lot of commercial tower permit and lease work, and represents many individual hams in their efforts to secure tower permits. He is also a talented contest operator, as well as an industry speaker for organizations such as the Electronics Industries Association, National Association of Broadcasters, and Society of Broadcast Engineers.
Fred has published many articles on amateur radio antennas for QST, the National Contest Journal, The ARRL Antenna Book, and other publications.
Table of Contents:
- Introduction: Why This Book Was Written
- 1: Principles That Will Help You Win
- 2: The Process in a Nutshell
- 3: Your Winning Team
- 4: Basic Preparations
- 5: Getting to Know the Players
- 6: Possible Objections—Safety Issues
- 7: Possible Objections—Aesthetic, Noise, and Nuisance Issues
- 8: Possible Objections—Environmental Issues
- 9: Possible Objections—Diversionary Tactics
- 10: The Permit Application
- 11: The Public Hearing—Your Big Moment in the Spotlight
- 12: Deliberations and Decisions
- 13: Appeals
- 14: Lawsuits
- 15: Now Get the Permit and Build That Antenna System!
- 16: Awkward Post-Permit Situations
- 17: Local and State Law, National Codes
- 18: Drafting or Redrafting a Bylaw or State Law
- 19: Federal Law of Ham Radio Structures
- 20: Other Federal Law
- 21: Common Covenants and Restraints
- 22: Canadian Laws (by Timothy S. Ellam, Q.C., VE6SH)
Reviews (of the 2nd Edition):
Chet Slabinski, N8RA:
I am very happy to announce that at last evening’s East Haddam [CT] Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing, my application for permission to build two antenna supports higher than 30′ was approved immediately following my hearing. I filed for the building permit today. K1VR’s book “Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur” was invaluable in acquainting me with what to expect from today’s local regulators, preparing the application, coaching in how present at the hearing, plus tips on responding to a range of questions that could be thrown your way. A must read X3 for anyone travelling this road!
Fred Keller, KC9QQ:
Fred Hopengarten’s book, Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur, was very helpful. His book contains a CD that has sample applications and a number of other useful documents and references…. [In the application,] I also included a Photoshop created image of what the tower would look like from the street. Fred explained how to do this in his book.
Richard P. Clem, Esq., WØIS:
The single best resource, however, is Fred’s book, Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur. The best time to read this book is before you put up your new tower. By following the advice contained in this book, you will potentially save yourself thousands of dollars. But if you are currently embroiled in a dispute, this book is a must. Chances are, your family attorney is not familiar with antenna zoning, and certainly doesn’t know anything about PRB-1. It is worth reading this book before you call your attorney, since you will be able to intelligently discuss the issue with your attorney and help educate him or her. Your lawyer will probably want to borrow the book, since it will save him or her hours of research. The cost is about $50, which you might consider expensive for even a large book. However, if you do become involved in a legal dispute (or better yet, avoid the dispute in the first place), this book will save you thousands of dollars in legal fees. As a VC, I’m happy to provide a free initial consultation. But I take such requests much more seriously if my potential client tells me that he or she has made the minimal investment of buying this book and reading it.
Mike Weissman, M.D., K2CBI:
The concrete for the base was poured today (after a bunch of rain delays). Your book was the best investment in the whole project so far!
Scott Bovitz, Esq., N6MI:
I read [the] Second Edition cover to cover. This is the best single volume on any area of the law still in print. It is chock-full of practical tips, solid lawyering, and humor. Prepare yourself for the new age of ham radio with Fred Hopengarten’s book. Highly recommended for ham radio buffs – and their expensive lawyers.
Len Umina, WT6G:
I’ve hired a lot of lawyers in my time. Right now I am working with two law firms. But I have to say that your book is the best $50 I ever spent!! I’m surprised you revealed so much.
Ron Morgan, AD9I:
As an owner of a 70 foot Rohn 25 tower and two Yagi antennas, I thought that a permit would be a simple process. It took nearly 70 days to get all of the paperwork and permissions before I could start construction. I would strongly recommend reading ‘Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur’ by Fred Hopengarten, K1VR before contacting any neighbor or city official.
Ed Parsons, K1TR:
You really have covered the subject thoroughly and I am sure this will continue to be the guide for Hams dealing with antenna zoning issues.
Joseph J. Carr and George W. Hippisley:
Practical Antenna Handbook (Fifth Edition, McGraw Hill, 2011) at page 702
By far the dominant reference for zoning matters related to towers and antennas, both amateur and commercial, is authored by Fred Hopengarten, K1VR. Fred is both an active amateur radio operator and a highly skilled lawyer specializing in antenna zoning matters. The cost of either of his books is de minimus compared to the costs of a lawsuit or relocation. You can do no better than to follow Fred’s recommendations at all stages of the process.
Paul Christensen, Esq., W9AC:
Former Director of Engineering for MediaOne
Fred’s book is an excellent reference . . .
Jim Lux, W6RMK:
Get Fred Hopengarten’s book . . . You’re going to be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a tower . . . [The money] for a book of essential information is well spent.
Dale M. Schwartz, Esq., K4ROZ
Past President, American Immigration Lawyers Ass’n., Adj. Prof. Emory Law
I have an advance copy of Fred’s book and it is terrific! I use it all the time to advise hams on zoning and other legal issues as an ARRL Volunteer Counsel. . . . It is a must for anyone that has an antenna zoning problem! Fred is perhaps the nation’s leading expert and distinguished attorney on these kind of cases (for commercial broadcast and telephone companies, radio and television stations, and amateurs). [H]e recently presented at a forum for the ARRL which I attended on these legal issues at the Dayton HamVention.
Steve Morris, K7LXC
Moderator, Towertalk Mailing List
This is THE book for amateur tower legal questions and answers.
Bob Patton, MD, JD, W4PG
ARRL Volunteer Counsel, Clearwater, FL
K1VR’s book . . . comes with a CD that has tons of useful letters, legal arguments, law cases, etc etc that can help one tremendously if confronted with that sort of issue. The ARRL provides every volunteer counsel a free copy of his book. I did purchase the 2nd Edition directly from Fred at the last Dayton hamfest. Always a nice touch to have the book autographed by the author! . . . It’s all about zoning and permitting issues, which for some is 99% of the work unfortunately.
Antenna Zoning Book — Reviews (of the 1st Edition):
Frank Fallon, N2FF:
I am really excited about this book. I get a lot of e-mails and telephone calls asking for zoning information. This new ARRL book is a MUST read for anyone planning to put up a tower. Get the book and read it before you even look at an antenna catalog. Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, a communications lawyer and contester, has written a truly fine book designed to save the serious amateur a lot of money, time and grief. It is a must read for any ham who plans to buy a house and put up a dream antenna system. Even before you buy the house or begin looking at tower and antenna catalogs you should get a copy of the book. There is practical advice on selecting a real estate agent, dealing with a town clerk, and getting a copy of the local building codes. Fred covers every subject you can think of and then adds quite a few you didn’t think of but should have.
Don’t be put off by the $49.95 price tag as it will be the best money you will spend on the entire house and antenna project. Your initial reaction may be that this is way too much for a book that is only 286 pages long, but be aware that you also get a CD-ROM crammed full of precedent setting cases, sample letters and documents designed to help you and your lawyer prepare you zoning application and or appeal. Director Jay Bellows, KØQB, a Minnesota lawyer who serves on the Tower Assistance Committee with me, feels that the CD-ROM is the best part of the book as you or your lawyer can edit the PDF files using Word and tailor them to your needs.
Even for an old veteran of many tower battles this a truly invaluable book. Fred takes us through the entire process providing detailed guides along the way with tips on how to talk to town officials and what not to say. These are very important things easily forgotten. He makes the point that you should at all times be the good guy in the white hat who lets the town know what he is doing an why. It is surprisingly easy to read which is a real accomplishment with a subject as detailed and complicated.
The book is designed to give you a view of the entire process and help you avoid the pitfalls that others have fallen into along the way. It is a college course in the subject at a graduate level. Some few may discover after reading it that they came across the book too late in the process and would be better off changing their plans or looking for a second dream house. It will save me hours on the telephone when a local ham calls for advice. But even for them the book may be helpful in making that decision possible. The best advice I can now give is before you even begin to look for a house, read Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur. Failure to buy and read it is almost certainly guaranteed to cost you many times more in money and time wasted.
Gerald Abbott, K8GA:
This is a delightful book & CD which is full of useful tips and info. Hopengarten impressively thought of everything and still expresses interest in learning and sharing more. We’re certainly fortunate in this wonderful hobby of ours to have talented individuals like Fred Hopengarten, Jim O’Connell and other volunteer counsels to share valuable insight into the various aspects of our hobby. Whenever another ham knocks the ARRL, my response always includes remarks to the effect that everything I know about ham radio comes from ARRL literature. This magnum opus certainly further justifies my thoughts in this regard.
John Corini, P.E., KE1IH:
I received my building permit yesterday for an 80′ tower. I followed the format from your book, and it was extremely successful. 3 members of planning and zoning board had statements read into the public record about how complete the application was.
Wade Walstrom, WØEJ:
For those who find themselves facing potential new, adverse local government regulation, ARRL has recently released a new publication, Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur by Fred Hopengarten, K1VR. This is an excellent new publication that provides a lot of material to help you as you approach local governing bodies to be able to put up an antenna. There is a CD ROM with documents you can use directly to aid your efforts. The book may seem a bit pricey at $49.95, but if you find that you are in need of an attorney’s services in your quest, you can save more than the cost of this book in attorney’s fees because the book provides a treasure chest of material your attorney will not have to search out! I highly recommend this book!
Jim O’Connell, Esq., W9WU:
[Y]ou definitely gave away the most of the secrets.
Jim Parise, W1UK:
The very first thing you should do is get a copy the book by K1VR “Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur” from the ARRL. It covers in great detail all the questions you have raised and provides specific methods for dealing with the permit process. For $50 you get the benefit of the experience of a top communications law attorney who has successfully navigated the permit process dozens of times for hams.
Nick Critelli, Esq., KØPCG:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to write Antenna Zoning. It is the bible for those of us out here in the trenches in our war with the P and Z.
Mel Whitten, KØPFX:
Just a note and a big “Thanks” for your “Antenna Zoning” book. This evening the city of Bridgeton approved my building permit for a 72ft crank-up “antenna structure” (US Tower HDX-572MDPL)! I live on a typical city lot and was permitted to install the tower between houses only 15 feet apart. “The Flying Setback” was allowed with a letter of permission from my next door neighbor. I had 9 additional letters from the neighborhood, many photos and a letters of support from several county and state agencies. I followed your suggestions and found all the information very valuable throughout the 3 month process. I would not have been successful without your book! Again, thanks a million!
Bob Applegate, K2UT:
Just wanted to let you know that your book was a big help last year. Our town passed a zoning ordinance allowing 100′ towers with minimal setback requirements. Your book helped quite a bit in the process. Thanks again; your book was money well-spent, and will probably be used more in the next few weeks, HI!
Ed Parsons, K1TR:
A very complete and overdue treatment of an important area – nice work!
Dave Paperman, W5WP:
You have probably heard this many times but I will add to praise of your book and CD. It has helped several Hams in my area with decision making and, in several cases, getting the “proper” wording included in an exception when purchasing a lot in a new subdivision.
Shel Epstein, Esq., K9APE:
from “Winning the Tower Battle in Park Ridge, Illinois” QST, April 2003, at page 52
[This book] is a comprehensive resource for hams and their attorneys. it includes a discussion of previous successful cases, tips on how to prepare for a hearing and a CD with case law, customizable forms and additional legal reference material.
Byron Peebles, NZ3O:
I have this book and it is a MUST for anyone who is considering any kind of tower work or for anyone who has local ordinance activity taking place. Really a fantastic job, for about the price of 15 minutes with a good lawyer. I’ve even suggested that my lawyer buy a copy (even though I know it will work its way into a bill somehow 🙂 Great GREAT job, Fred, and very readable.
Pat Barthelow, AA6EG/N6IJ:
I can vouch for the book. I’m not a lawyer, but I got the book at the Pacific Div. Convention, and it’s a gem. The first 20 pages would pay off the total cost of the book to any ham who faced the battle (er … Dance) with the authorities, to put up any significant antenna.
George Tranos, N2GA:
If you are at all interested in how to go about legalizing your tower installation, you have to get Fred’s book!
Wayne Greaves, WØZW:
from NCJ Magazine, September/October 2009, p. 11
Buy and read Fred Hopengarten’s book, Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur. Although this book focuses on the process for successfully obtaining a building permit for your tower, there is a lengthy appendix that addresses rewriting public ordinances. The entire book is well worth your time and money.
Duane Mantick, WB9OMC:
I bought a copy of the ARRL’s “Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur” at Barnes and Noble in the “Engineering” section. Not a book for the “light of wallet” at the ARRL’s listed $49.95, it may be truly worth TWICE that. First thing, it comes with a CD-rom that contains text for many of the court decisions and other documents referenced in the book. While doubtless a paper-saver, you can probably cut-and-paste many of those documents into your own filings if you’re about to do battle for your own antenna installation. The book itself is, in my opinion, an absolute masterpiece. It is not a casual read – this ain’t the comic section of your newspaper. But if you are serious about the antenna topic, Author Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, has really put together solid and in many cases utterly fascinating material and case histories. If you want to learn more about WHY out antennas are such a fight and by extension what this site and others are all about, “Antenna Zoning…” is a MUST-read. Simple as that.
Dana Roode, K6NR:
I highly recommend Fred Hopengarten’s (K1VR) book “Antenna Zoning For the Radio Amateur,” available from the ARRL (www.arrl.org). This book has information about virtually any issues you may run into. I found it very helpful in explaining the basic permit process and other aspects of tower implementation that I had no other information about.
Jed Petrovich, AD7KG:
[His first e-mail]: I am president of the Utah DX Association. Many of us have used your book, so I’m glad another edition is on the way. I just wanted to let you know how helpful your book has been in preparing my application for a Conditional Use Permit. I’ve met with two of the city planners and the assistant city attorney, and your book provided invaluable tips in these initial meetings. The city planner assigned to my project has recommended my application be approved. I go before the Planning Commission tomorrow evening. I feel confident (but not overconfident) that things will work out.
[His second e-mail]: In a word… success! All three planning commissioners voted to approve my CUP application last night. Armed with the information in your book, I felt very well prepared for what might take place last night. I did have one neighbor attend and voice her opposition. I had spoken with her on several prior occasions and wasn’t really surprised she wasn’t in favor of the project. I’m going to send a “thank you” note to her and her friend who attended the meeting. I simply want to tell them I appreciated their willingness to be a part of the process. It was evident last night that meeting with the staff prior to submitting the CUP application was key. The assistant city attorney had done some homework and his comments were spot on. I don’t think that would have been the case if we hadn’t met with him weeks ago. Chapter 6, Possible Objections, is my favorite part of the book. And, yes, I did review Chapter 9 last night. It never hurts to be reminded of how to behave after the meeting.
Mickey Baker, N4MB:
If you must apply for a permit – you may not need to where you live, depending upon your local code – THE publication is Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur written by Fred Hopengarten, K1VR. I did exactly what he recommended and got a permit in an urban environment in the most restrictive wind load zone in the US.
Other Books You Should Consider Buying:
For tips in selecting and installing an antenna support structure, you should buy “Up the Tower,” by Steve Morris, K7LXC. It is available at http://www.championradio.com/ .
In addition, you should also own the book by Don Daso, K4ZA, “Antenna Towers for Radio Amateurs,” http://www.arrl.org/shop/Antenna-Towers-for-Radio-Amateurs/
Do you really need to buy both? YES. In my experience, there are many ways to screw up an installation, and these two wonderful guys reflect a wealth of experiences from which you will benefit! BUY BOTH BOOKS — They are different. Save yourself a lot of grief.