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Excerpted from:

The ARRL Letter

Vol. 20, No. 48

December 7, 2001


* +Ham's antenna victory hailed


In one of the most favorable PRB-1 court rulings in years, a New York amateur has won a three-year battle to erect a tower on his property. The US District Court for the Northern District of New York has ordered the Saratoga Springs Planning Board to grant Randall J. Palmer, N2NVH, a special use permit for a 44-foot antenna support structure. PRB-1 is the limited federal pre-emption that requires localities to reasonably accommodate Amateur Radio communication.

In a 20-page decision issued December 3, US District Judge Norman A. Mordue found that "the planning board did not attempt to negotiate a satisfactory compromise" with Palmer. As a result, Mordue, said, the town failed to reasonably accommodate Palmer's amateur communication needs pursuant to PRB-1. The judge found that "the planning board engaged Palmer in a strictly one-sided negotiation consisting of inflexible demands and the construction of hoop after hoop for Palmer to jump through."

Mordue found that the record "clearly proves" the planning board made no attempt to negotiate a satisfactory compromise. On the other hand, the judge asserted, Palmer complied with many of the planning board's numerous requests and even made concessions on his own initiative. Mordue said that since the town already understood its obligations under PRB-1, he was directing the planning board to immediately grant Palmer's application. It's not known if the town will appeal.

ARRL Volunteer Counsel Albert J. Millus, WB2EQR, represented Palmer through much of the battle. "I'm a ham radio operator myself, and these are important cases for hams," Millus told the Associated Press December 4.

Saratoga Springs limits all antennas to 20 feet in height and allows exceptions only upon issuance of a special use permit. Palmer applied for one in 1999 to erect a modest antenna system of less than 50 feet in height, but the town continued to deny his permit application.

After the last rejection earlier this year, Palmer went forward with his lawsuit, filed after the town's initial denial of his application. A bench trial was held October 30. Mordue's decision relied on an analysis of prior antenna cases, including the landmark Pentel v. Mendota Heights case--issued by the Eighth Circuit in 1994.

ARRL Hudson Division Director Frank Fallon, N2FF, continues to spearhead a legislative effort to codify PRB-1 into New York state law. Fallon said he hoped the decision in the Palmer case--coupled with the goodwill generated by amateur response to the September 11 World Trade Center attacks--would prompt the New York Assembly to act favorably on the PRB-1 bill when the legislature goes back into session December 17 [2001].