North East RadioWatch:
December 16, 2002
Vinikoor Wins NH Tower Suit
by Scott Fybush

In this issue: * New Hampshire: Vinikoor Wins Hanover Tower Suit


The big story this week comes from the snowy northern reaches of NEW HAMPSHIRE -- but it's a precedent that broadcasters all over the country could soon be studying as they fight local zoning boards standing in the way of broadcast tower construction.

Longtime NERW readers are already familiar with Bob Vinikoor's struggles to build WQTH (720 Hanover), the construction permit he was granted five years ago for a 50,000 watt daytime, 500 watt nighttime signal that would be a counterpart to his existing WNTK (1020 Newport), WNTK-FM (99.7 New London) and WNBX (1480 Springfield VT). The station would use four 266-foot towers on Etna Road in Lebanon, in an area zoned for industrial use.

But Vinikoor ran up against a Lebanon ordinance that prohibits any broadcast tower higher than 42 feet -- and a city government that was unwilling to accept the laws of physics (and FCC minimum efficiency requirements) that dictate that no station operating on 720 can possibly use a tower that short.

Several years of court battles ensued, including a setback last year when a state trial court found in favor of the city and refused to grant summary judgment in Vinikoor's favor. The New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted his appeal, though, and on September 11 Vinikoor and attorney Fred Hopengarten of Lincoln, Mass. appeared before the court for oral arguments, with Chris Imlay, lawyer for the Society of Broadcast Engineers, submitting a friend of the court brief in support of Vinikoor.

The court issued its ruling on Thursday, and it's a pretty clear victory for Vinikoor and for the radio industry in general. In particular, the court agreed with Vinikoor that the city's laws prohibiting a 266-foot tower are in conflict with the federal regulations that require a tower of that height for a station on 720 -- and that simply arguing that Vinikoor is "not required by federal law" to build the station doesn't give the city's regulations precedence.

Vinikoor's next step: returning to the trial court for an actual court order, after which he'll be free to apply for a building permit and build the most powerful AM signal (at least during daylight hours) in northern New England.


Copyright 2002 by Scott Fybush, Reprinted by permission.