State law protects ham radio operator, frustrates neighbors in Windsor Twp.
A Windsor Township resident whose neighbors are upset over her amateur radio tower is within her rights to have the antenna on her property, township officials confirmed Monday.
An engineer went out to the site in the 400 block of White Rose Lane to inspect the 40-foot tower and ensure it didn't pose a safety threat to neighbors, township engineer Chris Kraft told the board of supervisors at a meeting Monday.
"Based on that review, we feel the tower is structurally safe," he said.
Lindsey Fowler is the homeowner who built the tower on her property last September. Fowler is a licensed amateur radio operator, according to Federal Communications Commission records, and her license is valid through December 2021.
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, licenses are available to individuals for personal use without monetary gain, according to the FCC.
Marc McClure, one of the neighbors who lives near Fowler, told the board in October that he and several other neighbors were opposed to the tower and said it should be removed, according to minutes from the Oct. 21 board meeting.
McClure said the tower was an eyesore in the neighborhood and that he and others were concerned about the structural safety of the tower were it to fall, as well as the potential unknown health hazards from exposure to radio frequencies.
The neighbors were also worried about a decrease in their property values, McClure said.
In Pennsylvania, amateur radio operators' rights are protected by state statute, and municipalities are not allowed to unreasonably restrict the installation of towers less than 65 feet high.
And now that the township has confirmed there's no safety risk to Fowler's neighbors, township officials said the dispute is outside their purview.
As a hobby, amateur radio allows operators to communicate on the airwaves after passing a licensing test and being assigned a designated call sign from the FCC.
In more practical applications, amateur operators can provide vital information to their communities or to first responders in the event of an emergency that knocks out phone service and other standard modes of communication.
Fowler first approached the township about the tower in August and began building it in September, said township manager Jennifer L. Gunnet.
There was some confusion about the size of Fowler's tower when it was first installed.
The neighbors believed it was a 60-foot tower, and township officials said Fowler had asked at one point to build a 70-foot tower.
But the tower's current height is 40 feet, Gunnet said Monday. Fowler has two 10-foot additions that have not been installed.
There's a similar tower installed at a house on Starview Drive, just a few houses down from Fowler.
At the October supervisors' meeting, McClure said Fowler approached several neighbors before installing the tower to ask if they'd oppose it. She pointed to the Starview Drive tower as an example of what it would look like, he said.
McClure said he told Fowler he'd never noticed the Starview Drive tower and he wasn't opposed to her installing something similar, but he told the supervisors he didn't realize how large Fowler's tower would be.
Neither Fowler nor her neighbors could be reached for comment.