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Local Antenna Restrictions

Amateurs can face three types of antenna restrictions:

Local Government Zoning Restrictions

Amateurs faced with local government zoning restrictions have some relief. PRB-1, the limited federal preemption of municipal land use regulations for Amateur Radio installations, is a useful tool when applying for a building permit for a tower. According to the Commission's rules, zoning authorities can not preclude Amateur Service communications, but must reasonably accommodate amateur communications and enact the "minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the state or local authority's legitimate purpose" [97.15(b)]. Local governments can zone for height, safety and aesthetics concerns, but their restrictions can not be so prohibitive that they are overly restrictive. Amateurs often find it advantageous to contact Volunteer Counsel or Volunteer Consulting Engineers for professional assistance with their zoning problem.

Some states have enacted state statutes which go even further than PRB-1 and they are especially helpful in giving guidance to local planners. We offer a list of states which have enacted such a state statute. This also includes the text of the statutes for these states. If your state has not codified PRB-1, fear not! PRB-1 covers all 50 states, but local planners sometimes need specific guidance. If your state has not codified PRB-1, why not contact your ARRL section leadership about doing it? For guidance in doing this see the following.

Is the local government zoning ordinance a "reasonable accommodation," given your residential environment?

If yes, obtain permit and erect antenna. If no, continue.

What is considered to be a "reasonable accommodation?"

It depends on the:

  • Antenna desired.
  • Size of property/setback limits.
  • Height of antenna (generally, a 60-foot antenna might be considered "reasonable" in a single-family residence in a subdivision).
  • Other variables.

Must I always obtain a building permit for my antenna installation?

Yes, if the local government requires one, and most do. Never erect an antenna structure without first checking local ordinances and complying with their guidelines or you may face substantial fines per day by the local government for any violations. The only exception is for antennas not regulated by the ordinance. For example, most wire antennas are exempt from local ordinance regulation, but this is not always the case.

Must I obtain a permit even if the ordinance does not make "reasonable accommodation" for amateur radio communications?

Yes. It is always the responsibility of the amateur to demonstrate why the ordinance is unreasonable and why it should be changed.

How can an unreasonable ordinance be changed?

Follow these steps:

1) Get a copy of the ordinance.

2) Read the ordinance.

3) Follow zoning ordinance requirements.

4) See ARRL PRB-1 Package on-line.

5) For the best advice, obtain Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur by Fred Hopengarten.

6) For local guidance and support, contact local clubs.

7) Contact ARRL Section and Division level officials who may be able to assist.

8) For legal advice contact an ARRL Volunteer Counsel.

9) Make a presentation before local zoning officials:

  • Your presentation should emphasize local public service activities.
  • Dress appropriately (no radios or call-letter ball caps).

10) When reasonable, obtain the permit and erect the antenna.

For which items may local government planners zone?

Planners must reasonably accommodate amateur communications to accomplish the local government's legitimate purpose such as regulation of:

  • Height
  • Antenna placement
  • Aesthetics
  • Setback
  • Safety (including RF safety)
  • Property value considerations

Has your state codified PRB-1?

If yes: 

  • use it in your presentation; Several states have codified PRB-1 as a state statute.

If no:

  • PRB-1 is a Federal preemptive regulation, which is binding in all states and supersedes all conflicting local ordinances, although it is intentionally generalized and not specific in its instructions. Much interpretation is left to municipal governments. 
  • Consider helping to obtain a state statute.
  • Contact ARRL Section Manager for guidance in contacting the appropriate Section level officials.
  • See this link for examples, especially:
    • Alaska
    • Idaho
    • Nevada
    • Oregon
    • Virginia
    • Wyoming

Does PRB-1 apply only to Amateur Radio?

Yes, it does not apply to commercial antennas or any non-amateur antennas.

Is your area's ordinance reasonable now?

If yes, obtain the permit and erect the antenna.

If no because the ordinance tries to regulate RFI, see the RFI preemption section of the ARRLWeb and see Steps 1-8.

If no because the ordinance requires an excessive fee, see Steps 1-8.

If no because the height limitation is fixed and not subject to a conditional or special use permit process, see Steps 1-8.

If no because setback limits are excessive, see Steps 1-8.

If no because the ordinance requires a conditional use permit or variance for all antennas, which often means obtaining permission from all neighbors and paying a non-refundable fee, see Steps 1-8.

If no because the community zones for other than height, setback, placement, health, property values or aesthetic restrictions, see Steps 1-8.

My community says the ordinance IS "reasonable accommodation" but I don't feel that it is. What's next?

See Steps 1-8; obtain legal advice from an ARRL Volunteer Counsel (an amateur who is a lawyer). Consider contacting an ARRL Volunteer Consulting Engineer (an amateur who is a register professional engineer)

Challenge the ordinance on its face or as it applies to you. This is a legal procedure that is potentially extremely expensive and time consuming, and not at all guaranteed of success.


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