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NORTH CAROLINA SECTION NEWS - February 2011

Posted Feb 25, 2011

NC QSO PARTY - It's party time this weekend. Everyone should plan to get on the air for at least a portion of the annual NC QSO Party, which runs this Sunday, February 27th from 12 Noon to 10 PM Local time (1700 UTC Feb.27 through 0300 UTC Feb.28). You can operate individually or with a club in your area. This is the one time every year all 100 counties of North Carolina get on the air, so let's give Hams across the rest of the world a good show. There are categories in which you can win points, but the NC QSO Party is not a contest, and casual operators are very welcomed to participate. Technician licensees can join a participating club and get a taste of lower HF bands under a control operator, or jump in under their own callsign on 10 meters at the suggested calling frequency of 28.360 MHz. Power limit is 100 watts or less, so please, no blowtorches (amplifiers). All the details on the NC QSO Party can be found at http://www.w4nc.com/2011ncqsoparty.html Let's make the Tar Heel state shine this Sunday.

IMPORTANT LEGAL/REGULATORY UPDATES

ATTENTION: Much has been happening at the federal, state and local levels with legislation and ordinances affecting Amateur Radio. Some of the items below require immediate input from the Ham Radio community, and others you need to be aware of. Please read the following section in full, then take a few minutes to help where you can make a statement.

PENDING FEDERAL BILL COULD TAKE AWAY 440 MHZ ACCESS - This is an action item for every North Carolina Ham. U.S. House bill HR 607, "Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011" in its current version would take away the 440 MHZ band from Amateur Radio. There are now more 440 MHz repeaters in North Carolina than 2 meter repeaters. Hams should contact their Congressman immediately to request that 440 MHz be preserved for Amateur Radio access, and that this provision be removed from the legislation. More details on this issue can be found at http://www.arrl.org/hr-607 Sample letters you can complete can be found at http://www.arrl.org/sample-letters If you don't know who your Congressman is, go to http://www.arrl.org/contacting-your-congressional-representatives Please don't send your letter via the postal service. Because of security measures and screening of inbound letters, physical mail takes up one month to get to your Congressman. Instead, fill in the blanks and use the services of ARRL's Congressional agent, Chwat & Co., which will get your letter ASAP to your Congressman. After filling in the blanks, you can either mail your letter to:

John Chwat
Chwat & Co.
625 Slaters Lane
Suite 103
Alexandria, VA 22314
and it will be hand delivered to your Congressman's office, or
by Fax - Send to: 703-684-7594
or via email to: arrl@chwatco.com
Let's preserve our 440 MHz access.

CHARLOTTE TOWER CASE - Many people have been following the tower case of Charlotte's Ryan Cairnes, K3XC. Last August, Ryan applied for a zoning permit for a retractable tower which can go to 80 feet. His application was approved with a four foot setback from his house and a 28 foot setback from the nearest side lot line. Ryan built his installation in September to specification and received verbal final approval from a zoning inspector. Several neighbors complained and on November 10, the Charlotte Zoning Administrator issued an interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance that required a 200-foot setback for amateur radio towers over 40 feet in residential areas. On November 23, Ryan received a notice of violation for not having a 200 foot setback from the perimeter of his property. Ryan's house is on a quarter acre lot and a 200 foot setback is impossible. Ryan filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Representing Ryan has been ARRL Volunteer Counsel (VC) Larry J. Ford, KG4GPJ. Ryan's hearing before the ZBA was this past Tuesday and lasted almost four hours. At the beginning of the hearing, the ZBA attorney advised board members that North Carolina state law prohibits their consideration of federal or state laws or regulations, so legal authority on "vested rights," PRB-1 and the 2007 state antenna statute could not be considered or argued at the hearing. This left the ZBA members to judge Ryan's case on existing Charlotte-Mecklenburg ordinances. ZBA board members voted to uphold the interpretation by the Zoning Administrator that 200 foot setback was applicable, even though past permits and testimony from Charlotte Zoning Staff and local Hams showed that the 200 foot setback had only been applied previously to commercial towers and not Amateur Radio towers. Many thanks to the twenty ARRL and CDXA (Carolina DX Association) members who showed up to support Ryan, along with Section Manager Bill Morine, N2COP, and Asst. Section Manager Tim Slay, N4IB. Ryan plans to appeal the ZBA's decision. VC Larry J. Ford believes the ZBA decision would be reversed on appeal to Superior Court where issues of "vested rights," PRB-1 and the state tower statute can be considered. This case will be a focal point of discussion at the ARRL forum at the Charlotte Hamfest.

HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS FOR ANTENNAS IN PROPOSED CHARLOTTE ORDINANCES - The timing for this is a coincidence, but the Rezoning Dept. in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Dept. is revising ordinances regarding the height of structures in residential zones. One proposal could limit the height of antennas and towers to 23 feet. This past week has shown that planning and zoning officials across North Carolina still are not familiar with North Carolina state antenna statutes G.S. 160A-383.3 (the city/town/village version) and G.S. 153A-341.2 (the county version) almost four years after their enactment into law. These identical statutes provide for "reasonable accommodation" for Amateur Radio antennas up to 90 feet, with the definition of "reasonable" to mean only clearly defined health, safety or aesthetic considerations may be applied. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If you don't know what's in the language of the ordinances which apply in your area, ARRL can provide guidance to Hams in discussions with local elected officials, but it is local Hams - and not ARRL - which must do the work with local government officials. Ways to work with authorities on bringing local ordinances into compliance with the North Carolina state antenna laws will be discussed at the ARRL forum at the Charlotte Hamfest. An excellent overview on how to deal with antenna and zoning issues can be found at http://www.arrl.org/antenna-regulation-and-zoning

STATE ANTI-CELL AND ANTI-TEXTING BILLS - We have good news here. Dr. Bob Conder, K4RLC, our vigilant State Government Liaison (SGL) is already working with legislators in Raleigh to get exemptions for mobile Amateur Radio use in pending state legislation. Next time you pick up a microphone in your car and know that you can use it legally, thank Dr. Bob for his work on your behalf in Raleigh.

S 191 and HR 81 are almost identical bills reintroduced in the current session of Congress after the Senate version passed unanimously in the last Congressional session. The legislation would require various federal agencies to study enhanced uses of Amateur Radio in emergency and disaster relief communications and for relief of antenna restrictions. In the weeks ahead we will be asking Hams to contact their federal legislators for support of these bills.

NEW CLUB - North Carolina has its 64th ARRL affiliated club, the Carolina Flashers Photonics Group based in the Triangle. The unusually humorous name is not what you think because the group focuses on the transmission of information over lightwaves instead of traditional RF. Our best to this new and exciting club dedicated to exploration of new frontiers in Amateur Radio.

NEW PIO AND MEDIA HIT - Congratulations to 11 year old Christopher Tate, KJ4UBL, of Burlington, the section's newest Public Information Officer (PIO). Christopher is an energetic and enthusiastic General class licensee in the 5th grade. I've had the pleasure of two QSOs with him, and he is an excellent representative for the future of Ham radio. The Burlington Times-News did a nice feature article on him at http://www.thetimesnews.com/sections/article/gallery/?pic=1&id=41333 Christopher will focus on all kinds of Ham stories around North Carolina, especially on youth. He becomes the 14th ARRL PIO in North Carolina, and could be the youngest ARRL PIO in the USA.

MEDIA HIT 2 - Tip of the hat to Dave Ritter, ND4MR, for having his Technician license training class at Wilkes Community College carried in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot and the North Wilkesboro Record. If there is enough interest, Dave will offer a follow-up class for the General class license. We'd like to begin tracking licensing classes on the section website. If you have a class coming up, please send an email to our section webmaster Susan Langley-Jones, WA4AKB at ncarrl-webmaster@nc.rr.com so she can post it on the section website at www.ncarrl.org

SKs - I regret to report the passing of Walt Honea, W4HM, of Greenville; Roger Simmons, AC4QU, of Wilmington; Edwin Israel, AC4KY, of Whiteville; and Coleman Earwood, KJ4HEO, of Morganton.

JANUARY NTS REPORTS - QNI (Net station check-ins) 3,362 (up 402 or 11%). Messages passed - 455 (down 46 or 9%). STATION ACTIVITY REPORTS (SARs) K4IWW 399, KI4YV 152, W2EAG 151, WK4P 133, W4DNA 83, W3HL 46, W4TTO 45, KE4AHC 33, WB4Y 32, W4EHF 25, KC4PGN 23, NC4VA 17. PUBLIC SERVICE HONOR ROLL (PSHR) NC4VA 172, K4IWW 130, W4DNA 125, W2EAG 110, W4TTO 100, KI4YV 90, WK4P 90.

ARES - 789, up 117 or 17% due to more Hams completing ICS courses 100, 200, 700 and 800. DEC/EC reports 39 of 100 counties. ATTN: ECs and DECs - if you're not filing your monthly reports, your ARES members aren't included in section reports.

LAST WORD - We all need to get out of our shacks and start talking more with our neighbors, friends and officials about what Amateur Radio is about. I attended the Charlotte Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on the case of Ryan Cairnes, K3XC, and it became abundantly clear that the zoning officials present had almost no knowledge about Amateur Radio. More importantly, they had little appreciation for it too. Most knew nothing about the role of Amateur Radio in times of widespread disaster. You can't blame them. It's been over a decade since the last large scale and sustained set of communications outages across North Carolina. The public has been lulled into a false sense of security that they'll always have a readily available communications outlet. It's our job to correct that perception. And we have a lot of work to do. There's 18,000 of us, living in a state with 9.6 million people. We make up less than 1/5 of one percent of the population. In other words, there are not quite 2 Hams for every 1,000 North Carolinians. We need to get out and educate the public before that number turns into 0 Hams for every 1,000 North Carolinians. 73 de Bill Morine N2COP ARRL North Carolina Section Manager