HOA Help

In 2007 I approached my HOA with a proposition to allow me to raise a 24′ high Hustler 6-BTV in order to pursue my amateur radio hobby. Of course all of this could have been dismissed if I were active prior to purchasing my first home, but since I wasn’t I had to take matters into my own hands in order to get on the air.

It seems many stumble across my posts/threads on eHam when considering how to approach their HOA to gain an exemption to any type of antenna/tower restriction. I recently provided another ham with my letters I composed for my HOA board of directors and management company. Thankfully I have a very understanding board of directors and management company. Maybe the state of the economy and the fact so many homes in our association are foreclosed that there are more important issues to deal with than some guy wanting to pursue his hobby.

Initially, I chose to ignore (play dumb) the CC&Rs set forth by my association. When I was finally cited, I removed my 6-BTV, but soon had it back up in the air disguised as a flagpole. It wasn’t until a winter storm with strong winds snapped the aluminum in half that I took the antenna down in order to look for another option.

I decided to approach the management company representative to see if I would be wasting my time putting together a presentation for the HOA board of directors. She didn’t sound positive in her response, but I decided to pursue it in order to partake in my hobby. Thankfully I made the right decision and spent the next few weeks off the air and working on my presentation.

I initially called this an exemption, then a proposal and finally a petition. It seems to be a combination of all of these. I wanted an exemption from the HOA’s CC&Rs in order to erect my Hustler 6-BTV antenna. I wrote a letter that was revised a few times explaining the hobby, what radio is used for and how it plays a role in emergency communications. I also took many digital photos to show where the antenna could be seen from. I also collected signatures of my immediate neighbors. Oddly enough none of them really cared if I had the antenna. One woman asked if it would interfere with her TV, to which I replied no. But I also said if there were any RFI/EMI issues to contact me and they would be resolved.

The board was quite open to my proposal, maybe because were so used to getting into negative issues with attending homeowners, I don’t know. But the presentation was a success and all but one member agreed to the proposal. By virtue of the majority the accepted my proposal.

So it pays to take the time and make the effort to work with your HOA if you are in a situation where you are restricted. I know some of the recent ham magazines now talk about “hamming from the shadows” for those of us who cannot erect towers with beams above our homes. Nonetheless there are numerous ways around CC&Rs in order to get on the air. But the decision is ultimately yours as to how you proceed. If you are interested in my letters, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

I Beat the HOA!

Monday I attended my first homeowners association board meeting with a letter, petition and images in hand to present my case to erect a 20′ vertical antenna. I will score this round a victory for myself and amateur radio, especially those limited by CC&Rs in their neighborhoods.

I composed a one page letter explaining the benefits of amateur radio, emphasizing the emergency communication aspect in times of disasters. I also took the time to petition four of my neighbors, all of whom signed, supporting my case without any question. I also drove to a few different locations on the roads in front and behind my house taking digital pictures to show what the 20′ antenna looks like.

Things did not get off to a grand start, I said, “I would like to petition the board to allow me to erect a 20′ vertical antenna in my backyard, what are the possibilities?” A moment of silence, some laughter and the President responded with, “Unlikely.” But after that statement I took control of the meeting, explaining ham radio and the benefits. I passed around the letter, petition and images for all to look at and then the questions started.

I explained about RFI/EMI to the best of my ability. Although after reading up on it some more I think I have a better understanding of potential problems if a neighbor complains. There were a few sticking points. First, I was previously cited by the HOA for being in “violation” of the CCNRs [Like my flagpole?] I was honest and forthcoming with them for the most part. Except I did not tell them the antenna was disguised as a flagpole. I could not give that fact away, just in case I need to use it in the future.

Everyone on the board, including the association manager were impressed with the time I took to put together my case, with the exception of one individual. I don’t know who she is or what her position on the board is, it’s really immaterial because she did not want anything to be erected at all. She was also the one who turned me in because of the 42′ antenna I had that was erected on top of a mast. In all honesty it was a bit much and I was more than pushing the limits.

The agreement for now is keeping the 6-BTV erected on a permanent basis for a series of 30-day trial periods (2-3 months). This time will allow association members to comment or complain about it on a monthly basis. If no one complains about how it looks or any RFI/EMI (interference) there is a very good chance I will get to keep it on a permanent basis. If not, I did explain I could use a tilt-base that would allow me to raise and drop the antenna when not in use. They seemed to like this idea more, but still allowed the trial period to proceed.

So regardless of how I look at this meeting, I came out a winner. I had nothing to loose and an antenna to gain. From Monday on I will be logging my station operations. Prior to this, I did not log when I got on and off my radio, but did log all contacts. Should any complaint arise I told my immediate neighbors I would resolve the issue with them or cease operation. I do think the board was pleased with how the meeting went and I look forward to attending the next meeting to provide further information in order to strengthen my case to keep the antenna erected on a permanent basis.

Tower Talk Continued

Okay, so my vertical antenna is not really a tower, nonetheless I spent about 30 minutes this morning removing the PVC flagpole from the antenna. I got a better idea as to what the 72″ tube broke. I used two screws in order to connect the anchor, which allows you to tie the flag off. It seems the continuous movement back and forth of the screw that extended inside the PVC pipe wore down the aluminum. So it was really just a matter of time before it failed.

I have decided to move forward with my petition…actually proposal sounds better that I will present to the Board of Directors of my HOA on Monday. Tomorrow I will erect the antenna to its full height (approx. 24′) and then move to different positions around my house (front & back) taking snapshots to show just how much of the antenna will be seen (none) from the front of the house. The backyard is a different story, thankfully the backyard opens to a main, two-lane road with houses on the opposite side.

I have spent a few hours the past couple of days working on the proposal. I am not really fond of the wording, but will continue to refine it before Monday. I also intend approaching my immediate neighbors with a petition, asking for their support and signatures to allow this to be done. I will include snapshots for my neighbors and answer any questions the have.

With any luck the outcome of the meeting will be positive and I will be allowed to raise my antenna in the coming weeks. If my proposal is denied, I will escalate this to the next level and start citing homes in our association that are not in compliance with the CC&Rs. If the HOA is going to pick and choose what rules are enforced then I will take issue and make sure every rule is followed. Simply, I will become a real asshole. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that because of work I have done in support of my proposal.

Back on the air?

It has been since January [HF Broken!] that I was last on HF calling “CQ CQ CQ” on PSK31. This due to a 72″ long, 1 1/4″ diameter aluminum tube that snapped in some very heavy windows. Then again, I did have a 18′ piece of PVC flying the flag that no doubt added in the tube snapping in half.

I ordered the replacement tubing (4078-1) from DX Engineering, which arrives on Thursday. It should be no longer then a 5 minute fix tapping and screwing 2 screws into the tubing to hold it in place.

After speaking to DX Engineering last week and using their advice about ground radials, contrary to manufacturer’s recommendations I have decided to place new ground radials. Originally I cut then to length depending on the band. This time I am using random lengths based on how much space I have in each direction.

Using this scenario, I have cut eight radials for 7′, four radials for 22′ and four radials for 38′. Not sure what sort of results I will achieve based on current propagation conditions, but I suspect DX will be as good if not better based on the 16 radials I will have in place. If indeed this works, I might double the number radials and attach them to a stainless steel radial plate (DXE-RADP-1P) from DX Engineering.

Since band conditions are supposed to be improving I might even have a chance to make a few SSB contacts, something I have yet to do and be able to log. Since November, 2007 I have logged 18 contacts on 20m using PSK31. Of those 18 only 11 have sent a QSL.

In other ham related news, I am debating sending a petition to the HOA Board of Directors to allow me to erect my 24′ vertical antenna (Hustler 6-BTV). Now it might be a exercise in futility, but the way I see it, many homeowners in our neighborhood do not abide by the CC&Rs. I will present a strong case as to why I should be exempt from the rule. Many in our general area cannot take care of the basics, such as a presentable yard, cars parked on the grass, weeds growing out of their rain gutters. fences broken, just to name a few. These issues are a far larger eye sore then a 1 1/4″ diameter antenna standing 24′ tall.