Cobb commission orders man to remove his amateur radio towers
by Jon Gillooly
December 19, 2012 12:39 AM | 11894 views | 101 101 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(MDJ Photo/Laura Moon)
(MDJ Photo/Laura Moon)
slideshow
MARIETTA — The Board of Commissioners gave a west Cobb man until May 19 to remove three of the four radio towers he operates out of his backyard.

Amateur radio operator Ritner Nesbitt, a grandfather of 10 who lives down the road from Dominion Christian Schools, said he expected commissioners to rule against him.

“Politics is politics, and I had predicted that this day would come,” Nesbitt said. “So, they’ve had their day in court, we’ll have our day in court.”

Nesbitt’s attorney, Christopher Balch, said he will likely file suit in federal court, arguing that the county’s ordinance governing radio towers is pre-empted by federal law.

“That’s why he didn’t apply for the permits to begin with,” Balch said. “He tried to get a building permit. They wouldn’t give him one because he didn’t have the (special land use permit), but we don’t believe a SLUP is necessary. We did this in order to create the administrative record and have the U.S. District Court ultimately decide whether our position is right or the county’s position is right.”

Nesbitt said he moved to the five-acre wooded slope across the street from the Burnt Hickory Farms subdivision 20 years ago because it was the ideal spot to pursue his amateur radio hobby. He built three radio towers on the slope behind his home in the 1990s: two that crank up to 35 feet and one that is 70 feet in height. A few years ago, he built a 140-foot tower. The higher the antenna, the easier to communicate with other radio operators around the world, he said.

In March, the county received a complaint about the tower and issued Nesbitt a notice of violation. Nesbitt responded by arguing that ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and therefore are exempt from local ordinances. But just to be safe, he applied for a special land permit for the 140-foot tower, which the county’s Planning Commission denied on Oct. 2.

Jodi Siciliano, who moved just south of Nesbitt on Burnt Hickory Road in 2006, was the only one to speak against the radio tower during the public comment part of the meeting, pointing to the list of names from neighbors who signed a petition in support of Nesbitt’s tower.

“I wanted to speak to the petition that they had showing that everyone is perfectly fine with them having this,” Siciliano said to commissioners. “As you saw in the shots of the house, it is wooded, and most of those people have no idea that these towers are up there. The two neighbors that do face the towers, we do object to them. They are unsightly.”

Goreham said the county’s code allows Nesbitt only one tower, not four.

“Code allows for one tower on the property under 70 feet that doesn’t have to go through the land use permit process,” Goreham said. “There’s a code out there that requires certain rules to be followed, and if they are followed you can coexist within the community.”

Commissioners supported Goreham’s recommendation in a 5-0 vote.

In other business, commissioners approved a proposed $41 million development off Macland Road by Bankstone Drive, approving a zoning request by Toronto-based Ballantry Homes. The developer intends to build 123 homes on a 65-acre tract ranging in size from 2,200 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Prices will begin in the high $200,000 and range up to the $400,000s.

“They’re expecting to start late spring to start development,” said Ballantry’s attorney, Kevin Moore. “With 123 homes, that will be a two- to three-year build out.”
Comments
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Ken B
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December 25, 2012
Mr. Turdeau.

With all due respect, I would disagree with your rant, and recall a statement of "you don't know what you don't know"

And I would follow with, you seem to be completely ignorant in the matter.
Gary Aaron
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December 26, 2012
@Ken B

What a response, just chock full of substance and details.
Araq Jahar
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December 24, 2012
Nesbitt failed to follow established procedures. Failed to follow proper safety requirements. Failed to obtained required paperwork. Then thumbed his nose at county officials. The towers will come down. Case closed. Next case your honor.
Buck_Shot
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December 27, 2012
You are probably spot on with that but the solution to this problem could only make it worse on those around him. There is a reason hams like to get antennas up high. It reduces the ground effect of the RF signal. Hopefully when his tower comes down he will run full legal limit driving those around him bonkers, and then what will happen? Not a damn thing. He is protected under federal law with respect to his station and power limits. The cheap imported electronics MUST accept any and all interferance that they recieve and he can in turn smile and wave with his mic in hand. Also, if he recieves interference from anyones electronic devices he can ask them to shut them off (big new lcd tv's, etc...) and if they fail to do so the FCC could send them a nice little letter telling them to turn if off. bwahahahaha. That would be the ultimate payback.
Araq Jahar
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December 28, 2012
@Buck_Shot

Nice make believe scenario, but unfortunately, the real world does not work that way. RFI rules have been brought up to date, with more updates coming. And there are no federal laws covering RFI, but there are rules and regulations which have the effect of law, as interpreted by a FCC administrative judge. Either way, if I were the one advising Nesbitt, I would encourage him to start keeping a very low profile. Yeah, I know, I am not the one giving him advice, so I am just going to sit back and be entertained by all this fuss that could have been so easily avoided. har har har. 10-4 y'all.
Buck_Shot
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December 30, 2012
I understand your misinformed point, but the facts are plainly evident. The FCC enforcement bureau’s actions are easily found on their website. Everyday items from aquarium lights, battery chargers, home security systems, cordless phones, electric blankets, the lists goes on and on, have been deemed faulty with the owners ordered to cease operation. RFI rules are up to date, with a favor towards those with a license to transmit. I welcome any examples where a licensee was forced to cease operation because of a complaint about interference when his transmitter is clean and legal.
Jake Mix
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December 23, 2012
Not a one of you ham operators in here who have been rendering your assorted legal opinions have listed what law school you attended, much less what experience you have practicing communications law before the FCC. The answer is zero, not a one of you has ever spent a day in law school, let alone practice in a court room. Nevertheless, your collective hot air has been funny, if not entertaining at times. The Nesbitt case is a nonstarter, going no where, and you would know that, if you had read previous court decisions pertaining to his case.
Judge Judy
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December 28, 2012
And they never will. The majority of hams elevate themselves on a ladder of self-importance, yet reality, they fall short every time.

They will proclaim that they are the savior of humanity when our cellphones, Internet and AM/FM radios fail, but they cannot cite one real example in the last 30 years where this has actually happened and a ham actually used his radio to pass a meaningful exchange that resulted in the saving of human life. Not one audio recording or eyewitness account, not from all these claims that during Katrina and Sandy- these hams were supposedly busy at work sending their "Radiograms" round the world saving little children from being swept away.

Because there simply aren't any. It didn't happen and won't. Commercial communication systems are more advanced and robust than ham radio operators like Nesbitt with thier ancient collection of vacuum tubes and four giant phallic symbols of an antenna.

I'm still waiting for some real evidence of ham radio saving human life with the eyewitness accounts, video, audio in the last 30 years. It just isn't there. Lots of "hot air" claims from rotund hams donning vests that call themselves "EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS". Yeah right. Most of these clowns would have a coronary if they ever fielded an actual 911 call, let alone responded to one.
John Turdeau
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December 23, 2012
Here come the "hams save the day" crowd, crooning that ham radio works "when all else fails". really? Hurricane Sandy was mentioned. NYPD, FDNY and NJSP had working radios the whole time. No problems there. What were hams doing? What everyone else was, nothing because the power was out.

what "hams" do in Cobb county? nothing. a few guys hang around the Marietta square on the 4th of July doing nothing. Nothing because the city of Marietta has better more advanced radios than most hams with their little toy radios can do. Not like these "hams" have any real training to do anything but jockey a radio. All they can do is call 911 from their toy radios, oh wait, my 9 y/o niece can do that with her Boost mobile phone.

So why do all these "hams" who are never actually there make these claims that their putting up a huge array of towers serve the citizens of cobb county? last I checked, Mr. Nesbitt uses his equipment for his personal enjoyment, which is jawjacking with other hams. Which is what hams do most these days: serving themselves talking about nothing. Ever listened to these guys on 20 meters?

What's the difference between them and CB operators? Not much, just more expensive radios, bigger egos, and more watts. But in the end, like their laughable claims of "community service" it's all HOT AIR.

Ham radio is just a hobby. It's nothing more. It's a hobby of self serving individuals who think the world spins and revolves around them. When the rest of the world has moved onto more advanced communication devices like iPhones and tablets, these portly clowns insist on donning orange vests and calling themselves "EMERGENCY SERVICES" when most of these guys are so close to a heart attack it isn't even funny. They have no training in anything but running their mouths.

Then they put up these towers insisting that they are some vital 911 linkup when "all else fails" which is, to put it bluntly, a bunch of nonsense. They droan on and on about how valuable they are.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
CB Jack
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December 23, 2012
@John Turdeau

What makes this hilarious is that it is absolutely true. The best humor has its roots in the truth. Hot air and pumped up self importance are classic traits ham operators.
R53
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December 23, 2012
LOL......What is the world comming to. If he wants to put 5 towers on his land, so what. His land, his money.

If he like's it...I LUV it.
N99ZP
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December 22, 2012
These towers are a violation of the Radio Amateur's Code, Title VI, Part 12, Section 5690, Paragraph 8, Sub paragraph B.
mr wally
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December 22, 2012
the guy moved there 20 YEARS ago,...why is it that his towers went unnoticed or, nobody complained,...until some moron thought this is insightly, and complained,...if I was him, I would take down 3 towers, and put one up to the full 200ft limit. THAT IS LEGAL.
B. Bunny
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December 24, 2012
I wonder who the crybaby was that complained?
VFP581
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December 26, 2012
Yeah mr wally, legal, because you heard it from another ham. Yup, that makes it legal fer sure, by golly, 10-4?
VFP58
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December 22, 2012
What used to be a simple fast rubber-stamp process for getting ham radio towers approved in Cobb county has now turned into a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare. Whereas prior to Nesbitt's selfish defiant battle with zoning officials, zoning officials were friendly to ham radio operators, they now greet hams with suspicion. Thanks Nesbitt for single handedly wrecking what was a great relationship with county zoning officials.
N3LH
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December 21, 2012
I was wondering how it was, that we were not successuful in getting the FCC to start over riding HOA's and their covenants, and read in disbelief how Hams said everything is OK the way it is. Some of comments are an example of why the FCC didn't do it. You would think that Hams would stand by someone fighting to keep their towers but because they can't aford anything but a G5RV they want him to take his down. You are no better than his neighbor. How is it rude because his tower allows him to make a contact that you didn't make? If all you run is 100 watts and someone else runs full legal power and makes a contact, is that rude too? And how is it showing greed, because he decided to spend his money pursuing legal activities? If someone buys a $10,000 radio or amplifier is that being gready too? I can't afford them but I don't think any different of someone who does. And I don't look down on anyone because I may have something they don't. And why do some people need so many towers and antennas? Because some Ham Operators do more than park on the same frequency talking to the same people everyday. I can do that on the CB. What single antenna do you know that will operate on all of the bands that we have? None. And since you bought up the network, I think it's an unfair advantage for people to make contacts after the station is posted on the cluster. If someone with the right antennas finds and makes a contact, why should you be rewarded by someone elses efforts, and thats OK.
N6INM
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December 21, 2012
Why someone needs 4 towers is beyond me. I run a G5RV and it gets out fine and that is all I can afford. I do not even own one tower because with the internet, echo link, All-Star, 2 meters, 440 etc you can get out...Hams with towers and amplifiers kill the small guys when trying to talk to a distant stations and its rude. Either take the towers down and amps or share your radio over remote-hams.com so we small guys have an opportunity to be control operators of large stations. It's about knowledge sharing! This is the 21st century and the internet helps compensate for bad band conditions that we are all dealing with right now..so the excuse to have 4 towers doesn't sell me. I been licensed for 29 years and never seen anyone who needed 4 towers then or now. It's a gentlemen s and ladies hobby and service to our community and we must set a good example being good operators and being good ambassadors to our community and the world. Sorry for being so vocal here but 4 towers is insane..
WPE777
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December 21, 2012
Four towers is just another example of the disease called American greed. Gimme Gimme more.
Bootlegger Bob
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December 21, 2012
You're a liberal aren't you? It sounds like it...because YOU can't afford to have a big station or afford to have the towers, antennas, radios and amplifiers that others have, it appears you feel they should all be limited to what you have or share with the have nots.
Ten Four Y'all
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December 21, 2012
@Boolegger Bob

Actually, the only liberal I have seen comment here is "I'm a Ham Too." He played the race card, like liberals always will.
kg4yrf
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December 23, 2012
im glad you feel that way,obviously mr nesbitt needs citizens like yourself to protect him from himself.
Buck_shot
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December 23, 2012
Must agree with Bootlegger Bob. Why in the heck is it anyones business what a man wants as long as he can pay for it? Why should he not get anything and everything he wants and has worked for? Silly people, It is HIS home and HIS money, leave him alone.
K4FX
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December 23, 2012
There are many hams that have a lot more than 4 towers. Competitive contesting stations need at least that many towers. I have one 75' tower and a legal limit amp I have a small signal in comparison to most "big guns"

If I had the space, you bet I would have at least 4 towers.
K44TY
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December 26, 2012
@K4FX

Yup, classic ham radio mentality, all for self.
Randy Michaels
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December 21, 2012
FCC regulations clearly limit a CB radio tower to 20 feet. Why does he think he can get away putting up a 140 foot tower?
JLM II
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December 21, 2012
Actually, for mounting CB antennas on structures, the highest point of your antenna must not be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the building or tree on which it is mounted, or 60 feet above the ground.

However, these are not CB antennas, they are Amateur Radio (HAM) antennas and there is no regulated maximum antenna height assuming you are not near an airport.
Just Ain't So
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December 21, 2012
@JLM II

Give me an exact quote and source of the law, rule, or ordinance that permits an unlimited height for ANY radio antenna, much less for an amateur radio antenna. Save yourself effort. No such law exists. It is yet another urban myth that hams mistakenly believe, because they heard it from another ham.
the facts
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December 22, 2012
@Just Ain't So

The original post referenced FCC regulations, not any state or local ordinances. JLM II was responding to that aspect.

From the FCC:

"§97.15Station antenna structures.

(a) Owners of certain antenna structures more than 60.96 meters (200 feet)above ground level at the site or located near or at a public use airport must notify the Federal Aviation Administration and register with the Commission as required by part 17 of this chapter.

(b) Except as otherwise provided herein, a station antenna structure may be erected at heights and dimensions sufficient to accommodate amateur service communications. (State and local regulation of a station antenna structure must not preclude amateur service communications.

Rather, it must reasonably accommodate such communications and must constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the state or

local authority’s legitimate purpose. See PRB–1, 101 FCC 2d 952 (1985) for details.)"

It could be argued exactly what height would be "sufficient to accommodate amateur service communications", but, there's clearly no exact maximum height specified.

JoeyZ
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December 22, 2012
@ Just Ain't So & JLM II: Actually, FCC Rules, Part 97 say a ham tower must not exceed 200 feet above ground level, so Ritner is well within his Federal rights. And there are major differences between ham radio and CB.
Buck_shot
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December 23, 2012
I will reply for JLM II, There most certainly is a statue under Federal laws that cover our antennas. We can have one a thousand feet tall, if we can afford it, we only must notify the FAA and mantain legal lights. All under 200 feet is hands off for the feds.

Title 47: Telecommunication

CHAPTER I: FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (CONTINUED)

SUBCHAPTER D: SAFETY AND SPECIAL RADIO SERVICES

PART 97: AMATEUR RADIO SERVICE

Subpart A: General Provisions

97.15 - Station antenna structures.

(a) Owners of certain antenna structures more than 60.96 meters (200 feet) above ground level at the site or located near or at a public use airport must notify the Federal Aviation Administration and register with the Commission as required by part 17 of this chapter.

(b) Except as otherwise provided herein, a station antenna structure may be erected at heights and dimensions sufficient to accommodate amateur service communications. (State and local regulation of a station antenna structure must not preclude amateur service communications. Rather, it must reasonably accommodate such communications and must constitute the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the state or local authority's legitimate purpose. See PRB-1, 101 FCC 2d 952 (1985) for details.)

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Cobb commission orders man to remove his amateur radio towers
stemley gator
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December 24, 2012
Randy. There's a BIG difference between ham radio rules and CB rules.
freeandfair
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December 24, 2012
It's not a CB tower and CB rules do not apply to it.
KF4RCA
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August 13, 2013
That 200 foot limit has been around since the 50's. It is unlikely that this is the first time it has come up.

Many local govt's don't understand that federal law pre-empts local law.

Many forget there was a war fought over that in the 1860s.
K7CB
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December 21, 2012
@VFP12:

"And while he is minding his own business, he is infringing on the rights of his neighbors."

Tell me, what rights is he infringing upon? I know of nothing that guarantees someone the right NOT to see something unsightly. I know of nothing that guarantees someone the right NOT to be offended.
W57AQ
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December 21, 2012
Nesbitt's behavior is an embarrassment to the local amateur radio community which strives to create a favorable public image of our hobby, that includes friendly relations with our non ham neighbors and local government officials.
JoeyZ
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December 28, 2012
You mention "our hobby," but what kind of call is w57aq?? A typo or...??
I'm a Ham Too
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December 20, 2012
Agressor? Wrong attitude????

I didn't perceive any of this from the article. In my 16 years of being a ham I don't think I've ever heard of another ham not supporting a fellow ham in something like this. He should be able to put up what he wants to put up on his own property.

I wonder if all of you "non-supporting" hams would have a different opinion on this matter if this gentleman had not posted his picture with the article.
old time ham
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December 22, 2012
So I can have a pig farm on my property? How about a ferris wheel?

When you live in a neighborhood, you are part of a community. The county where Mr. Nesbitt moved to has (and had in 1992 when he moved here) very liberal and generous county code allowing for up to 70 feet without requiring an SLUP. A building permit is still required, no different than any other structure you might have on your property- a new deck, an outbuilding, etc. A simple form describing what you are doing and a small filing fee. And you're done.

Nesbitt chose to ignore the law. He also chose to put at risk the great work of a handful of hard working hams including one attorney who paved the way here and other metro Atlanta counties to educate them on PRB-1 and make those reasonable changes needed to make our county code more "ham" friendly. Sorry, he is what he is: an arrogant scofflaw.

and his picture has nothing to do with this, I know where you are going- what a cop out and wimp out because you have no factual argument to put up. The man is wrong, plain and simple. And he is going to waste more of his money finding this out. His choice. But please leave the rest of the ham community out of it. He's done enough damage already.
Jerry Col
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December 22, 2012
Don't go there. It's not even an issue until a jackass like yourself tries to make it one. Rit is a good guy and a very intelligent man as well.... he'll have his towers when the dust settles.
Getagrip2
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December 20, 2012
Sg890,

The typical pantywaists who complain about things like this wouldn't know which end of a gun is which, so that wouldn't likely happen.

A shooting range is a little bit different from a radio tower . Most people dont reach for a radio tower as their weapon of choice, and I suspect the fatality rate from falling radio towers is a little less than from gunshot wounds. How far from the property line is this tower, anyway? If it's more than 140 feet, then the bozos next door really have nothing to worry about. Of course that wouldnt shut them up, though.

Get Smart
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December 20, 2012
Local amateur radio clubs expend thousands of volunteer man hours promoting a positive image of amateur radio. Then you get one scofflaw who thumbs his nose at local zoning authorities and deliberately antagonizes his neighbors by erecting a 140 ego monument.
Ms Smores
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December 20, 2012
Has this 140 foot tower been reported to the FAA as a hazard to aeronautical navigation?
W5LVB
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December 22, 2012
Unless a tower is in 'direct proximity to' or within 5 miles of an airport in a recognized glidepath, a tower does not have to have a FAA permit/certification or be lighted, if it is under 200 feet tall.
K4FX
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December 23, 2012
Hams are allowed to have towers up to 200 feet, and they can go higher with special permission. There are guidelines for hams close to airports. I am sure unless he is in the flight path of an airport, no one needs to be notified, he is well below the maximum height limit
Classic60
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December 20, 2012
It is apparent those posters on the article who think that CD radio is the same as ham radio are clueless. If you think the tower is ugly then look the other direction.
Buck_shot
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December 20, 2012
Please take the towers down and use dipoles about 20ft up...Run full legal limit on all bands. Within days they will beg for the towers to go back up and get the ground effects out of the way. Also, run full legal limit on 2m and 70cm and watch the lights come one for blocks.
Slap Shot
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December 21, 2012
And Buck_shot, this is your idea of how to promote a positive public image of amateur radio?
Buck_shot
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December 23, 2012
No.....my idea if playing nice or promoting our "image" is to allow a man his rights on his property. Since they shoved him in a corner he can play the game their way. No towers means lower antennas, lower antennas means more RF getting into cheap china electronics. Run FULL LEGAL LIMIT and when they cry about it shrug his shoulders and tell them why it is happening. A classic case if idiots infringing on someone elses rights on his own damn property. It is never about what is right and wrong, only how much someone is allowed to push you around.
kf4rca
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August 14, 2013
Running the full legal limit on 2M and 70CM?

I can do that!
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