ARRL to File “Friend of the Court” Brief in Ohio Antenna Case
[Updated: 2014-02-26 2337 UTC] The ARRL plans to file a “friend of the court” or amicus curiae brief on behalf of an Ohio radio amateur who has been at loggerheads with his community since 2009 in efforts to erect a modest antenna support structure. The Village of Swanton, Ohio, turned down the application of ARRL Life Member Gary Wodtke, WW8N, for an antenna variance to put up a 60 foot tower. Wodtke appealed, however, and in January the Fulton County Common Pleas Court issued a final judgment in his favor, ruling that federal and state law preempted Swanton’s antenna ordinance.
Now, Swanton is appealing that order to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals, asserting, in part, that Ohio’s PRB-1 antenna law is unconstitutional, because it conflicts with the state’s “Home Rule” statute, which gives communities broad and preemptive regulatory powers. Like the federal law, Ohio’s PRB-1 statute calls on towns to “reasonably accommodate amateur station communications and shall constitute the minimum practicable regulation necessary.” Ohio Section State Government Liaison Nick Pittner, K8NAP, believes the state appeals court’s decision in Wodtke v. Village of Swanton could set legal precedent for similar antenna-related cases down the road. An attorney, Pittner was instrumental in getting Ohio’s PRB-1 law enacted.
“Appellate decisions are generally final, unless further review is granted by the Ohio Supreme Court,” Pittner said in a statement. “While a court of appeals decision represents the law only in that appellate district, it carries significant precedential value in other Ohio courts and may also be cited in similar cases in other states.”
In addition to the state’s antenna regulation pre-emption law, the application and authority of the federal PRB-1 statute, embraced in Section 97.15(b) of the FCC’s Amateur Service rules, will be at issue in the appeal. This case will mark the first time a state PRB-1 law has been challenged in an appeal.
Assisting in the case is telecommunications attorney and antenna rights advocate and expert Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, the author of Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur, published by the ARRL and now in its second edition.
The Village of Swanton’s ordinance established a fixed antenna height of 20 feet above the residential roofline. Wodtke wants to install a 60 foot antenna support structure on his 0.2 acre residential lot; the village allows greater height where the lot is at least 5 acres. While the appeal is pending, both parties have agreed that Wodtke be permitted to install a 40 foot antenna support structure, which complies with Swanton’s current ordinance.