K6NR Tower Project
Building Permit Notes

The building permit process was fairly easy for me - my site is in the desert where people do not worry much about aesthetics and the like.  Nonetheless, since San Bernardino County has urban as well as rural areas, a building permit was required.  Only a building permit is required to a height of 65 feet; greater than 65 foot high antennas require a variance process.  The variance required some hefty fees, support of land owners within a certain radius from my property, and, in some cases, a special hearing.  A variance is not for me.

I highly recommend Fred Hopengarten's (K1VR) book "Antenna Zoning For the Radio Amateur," available from the ARRL (www.arrl.org).  This book has information about virtually any issues you may run into.  I found it very helpful in explaining the basic permit process and other aspects of tower implementation that I had no other information about.

I created a formal building permit document - your basic "business document" format with a table of contents, executive summary, sections, and pertinent attachments.  Below is the outline for the document I used along with some of its content.  The idea was to show the County that I had done my homework and knew what I was doing.  I did not include information on anything I felt would not likely be an issue, I kept it to basic structural matters.  The idea was to let them tell me what additional information they needed, if any.  I managed to get it right the first time, they did not require additional information or plan changes.

I emphasized the planned tower was a non-commercial activity, to avoid confusion with cellular telephone sites.  One of the reasons I purchased a US Tower TX-455 was that US Tower is a California company and can supply plans stamped by a California engineer.  This made things easier for me as well.

I wasn't sure what to do about the Lot plan, a required element of the permit application.  When I asked the County what exactly they wanted, they left me with the impression that it had to be a  formal engineering document.  However, I ended up creating a lot plan using Microsoft Visio, making it as formal and informative as possible (see below).

The only "painful" part of the process was the County's requirement of a "Special Inspector" to verify two things: a) the poured concrete was as strong as US-Tower specified (3,000 PSI);  b) the base bolts were properly tightened.  This was pretty expensive as I went with a local engineering firm used to dealing with bu$ine$$es.  If I did this again, I would find an individual that would be acceptable to the County who would have more flexibility as to what rates he charged. The bolt tightening was somewhat silly as US Tower specifies "snug tight."  The County claims that the UBC requires the special inspections.

Below are excerpts from the permit document I used.  I attached this to the County application form itself, was was brief and not structured for a ham radio tower installation.

Dana Roode, K6NR, January 1, 2003

County of San Bernardino


Additional Information
Amateur Radio Tower Installation

[I inserted basic information here - my name, job site address, parcel number, my contact information, etc.]

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
The Tower
Tower Foundation
Site Selection
Amateur Radio Information


US Tower (Tower Manufacturer) Specification and Formal Stress Analysis Document
US Tower Foundation Design Specifications
Lot Plan
Parcel Map
Photographs of Planned Tower Location
Photocopy of FCC Amateur Radio License
Copy of  San Bernardino County Height Regulations (Section 87.0405)

1.  Executive Summary

The applicant is an Amateur Radio operator licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  He is requesting permission to install a 55 foot high telescoping antenna tower on residential property in Phelan that he owns with his wife and two brothers.  The tower will be used to support amateur radio antennas for strictly non-commercial purposes. 

The tower will be installed according to detailed instructions and specifications supplied by US Tower, the California company that manufactures the tower.  The tower is self-supporting on a concrete foundation; no guy cables are required.  The tower is a triangular lattice steel structure, approximately 18 inches wide on each of its three sides at the base.

The site selected for the tower has ample clearance in all directions within the owner’s property.

2.  Description of Proposed Installation

2a. The Tower

The proposed model TX-455 tower is commercially engineered and manufactured by US Tower Inc. of Visalia, California and will be delivered new from the factory.  It is a 3 section telescoping tower that is 22 foot high when retracted, and 55 foot high (without antennas) when extended.  The tower has a Fulton hand winch and cable system to allow it to be raised and lowered.

Each of the 3 sections is of triangular lattice construction, 21’ tall, made from steel tube, solid steel rods, and other materials (see Attachment A, page 2).  The bottom section is 18 inches on each of the three sides, the middle section is 15 inches on a side, and the top section is 12.5 inches on a side.  There is 4 foot overlap between each telescoping section when the tower is fully extended.

Cross bracing at critical points on the tower ensures safety and additional strength.  The tower has a heavy-duty, hot dipped galvanized finish inside and out to provide years of trouble free service.

The 1977 Uniform Building Code specifications for a properly installed TX-455 tower allow for xxx square foot of wind loading on a mast 1 foot above the tower, assuming a 70 mph wind factor.  This is more than adequate for the amateur antennas to be installed on the tower.  (See Attachment A, page 1).

2b.  Tower Foundation

The US-Tower TX-455 is self-supporting and requires no guy cables or guy anchors.  The tower is supported by a 5 foot square concrete base built inside a 6 foot deep hole (see Attachment B).  As per US Tower specifications, concrete with a minimum compressive strength of 3,000 psi @ 28 days shall be utilized, reinforced by #9 and #4 steel bars.  Three 1 inch diameter 27 inch long anchor bolts, also supplied by US Tower, will be embedded in the top of the concrete foundation .  The tower will be attached to the foundation using these bolts.

2c.  The Antennas

The total wind load of the planned antennas will not exceed US Tower’s (the tower manufacturer) limit of xxx square foot under 70 mph wind conditions.  [I did not supply any antenna info here since I would be changing them at times - I ensured that any antenna installed "shall not exceed the recommended UBC-97 limits set by US Tower at any time."]

2d.  Site Selection

The site selected for the proposed tower is in the Southeast section of a 2.2 acre property.  The nearest adjacent structure is 102 feet away from the site.  The site is 70 or more feet away from the property line in both the South and East directions.  Since the tower and any attached antennas will never be more than 65 feet in height, there is no danger of the tower coming down on a structure or outside the homeowner’s property.

See the Lot Plan (Attachment C) and attached photographs of tower site (Attachment E).

3. Background Information - Amateur Radio Services

[I included basic information about what amateur radio is all about here]

Notes on the Attachments

These were the standard documents supplied by US Tower.  The County did not require a set of plans with a "wet stamp" but I understand some counties do.
This is my Visio Lot Plan - I left off the locations of the many other non-tower antennas on the property since they are not structures, per se.
I included a copy of the County's parcel map showing the location of my parcel with respect to others.  Not 100% necessary, but was good to remind folks of the rural land layout.
I took several pictures of the antenna site and added red arrows with digital-picture software to show where the site would go.  In my case pictures showed how spacious the planned tower site was.
I inserted a copy of my ham license, to emphasize the "legitimacy" of my request   :-)
Lastly, I inserted a copy of the County's own height regulations (page1 page2) that state 65 foot ham towers are OK in a residential setting.  When I first asked the County what was allowed, I got several different answers, none of them favorable.  They kept thinking of a "tower" as a commercial thing and wanted to apply the recently tightened cellular telephone site standards.  Fortunately, someone showed up at the counter and provided me copies of this part of the County regulations.  I wanted to avoid any further confusion during the permit review "plan check" process.

That's about it about the permit - e-mail me if you would like to compare notes.

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