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Orem sets height allowance for antennas

By Reva Bowen - Daily Herald - | Mar 11, 2011

OREM — Although Orem has been moving away in recent years from having conditional use permits in the city code — opting instead for specific standards to be met — the city council tuned in to an area where the case-by-case, individualized approach of the permits seemed to fit — the height of amateur radio antennas.

The council previously considered the issue in meetings in January and February, after amateur radio enthusiast Dan Bishop applied to have the antennas and support structures made a permitted use in the city up to a height of 75 feet.

Steve Earl, a member of the city’s legal staff who has worked on the matter, told the council that he recommended going the conditional use permit route because Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations basically say that a blanket height cannot be set, and the antennas should be allowed at the desired height to the maximum possible.

By making amateur radio a conditional use, the council has the power to review each potential site individually, Earl said, and accommodate the desires of operators to the maximum extent that is practical with regard to height, while still keeping in mind city objectives, such as the preservation of aesthetics.

The ordinance approved by the council Tuesday provides for amateur radio antennas and support structures to be a permitted use in all zones, up to a height of 45 feet. Heights greater than 45 feet are granted as part of a conditional use permit. Along with aesthetics, the law allows the council to consider factors such as impacts on property values and on views of other properties.

Councilwoman Karen McCandless said she was concerned about what the definition of a view would be, and how the aesthetic quality of a neighborhood could be quantified, but she also said that the establishment of more specific criteria would probably be next to impossible.

Earl acknowledged that the ordinance creates challenges, and that the interpretation is clearly subjective by nature, but the conditional use permit process would enable the council to make those judgments.

In a meeting to review Tuesday’s agenda, development services director Stanford Sainsbury said this was the first time the city was opening up “view” as a criteria for development. In the past, he said, the policy was, if you want the view, buy the lot.

“This will be going somewhere we haven’t been before,” he said.

McCandless also said the issue of interference had not been discussed, but Earl noted that the FCC has exclusive authority over that aspect of operations.

Bishop said a lot of work had gone into the revised ordinance, and he felt it was a step in a positive direction.

McCandless voted with the rest of the council for the ordinance, stating that it was the best vehicle the council has to regulate the antennas.

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