guest blog by Deborah Goonan
CAI Attorney Jim Slaughter of North Carolina is the most recent opponent to H.R.4969 – Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014.
Slaughter makes some outrageous comments. “…it seems to me that if an individual enjoys amateur radio use and might want to install a radio tower for personal use, that perhaps a planned community or condominium with property restrictions might not be the best place to move. And, if someone with no history of radio use lives in a planned community and suddenly develops an interest in amateur radio use, they shouldn’t be allowed to simply ignore their contractual agreement with other owners to erect a radio tower in their yard.” And he draws this erroneous conclusion, “…a bill that guts community association rules and architectural standards seems excessive.”
These remarks are not representative of the facts. While HR 4969 seeks to prohibit an outright ban on HAM radio equipment in HOAs, the bill also includes provisions for reasonable accommodation. The language of the bill would still allow practical restrictions.
“SEC. 3. ACCOMMODATION OF AMATEUR SERVICE COMMUNICATIONS.
Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall amend section 97.15(b) of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations, so that such section prohibits application to amateur service communications of any private land use restriction, including a restrictive covenant, that–
(1) precludes such communications;
(2) fails to reasonably accommodate such communications; or
(3) does not constitute the minimum practicable restriction on such communications to accomplish the legitimate purpose of the private entity seeking to enforce such restriction.”
CAI’s official stance on these kinds of issues has a history of being Black and White – My Way or the Highway Approach. Just read the language.
From CAI Public Policies on Aesthetics as an Economic Issue: “In order to maintain an attractive and valuable “curbside appeal,” common interest communities must control aesthetic interests of the development. Aesthetic control extends to the design and maintenance of all improvements … which are visible throughout the community.” and also this: “CAI strongly supports community-crafted aesthetic controls, in accordance with governing documents or supplemental thereto, and opposes any and all attempts by federal, state and local government to interfere, ignore or negate the contractual obligation between associations and its members permitting and requiring the association to maintain aesthetics that meet lifestyle expectations of the collective ownership…” The Public Policy is based upon flawed premises such as “When communities look old, poorly maintained or without a unified scheme in architecture, color or landscaping, property values of individual owners’ properties as well as the whole community suffer. When aesthetics of any one development look clean, well maintained, properly proportioned and part of an overall design or compatible color scheme, owner expectations are met and property values are sustained and improved.” Really? Have you ever been to Boston, Washington DC, London, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, or countless other cities all over the world where there are plenty of “old” structures of various architectural design, all peacefully coexisting for generations, even centuries? That’s called historical heritage, character, and neighborhood charm. When you read CAI’s official policy, it appears they advocate for a sanitized, neutral, “show ready” facade at all times, lest disaster will befall the owners in the form of plummeting property values. Therefore, we MUST NOT see HAM radio wires, satellite dishes, solar panels, religious symbols, flags in flower pots, the neighbor’s pick-up truck with his company logo on the side, the Playskool picnic table for the children, colored vs. white holiday lights, and on and on. The approach is totally unbalanced.
Do ALL owners share the same expectations? I think it would be difficult to argue that you could convince a “collective” supermajority to agree on one particular set of standards. The standards exist in HOAs mainly because they were previously set by the Developer before the first unit was sold. For buyers, this aesthetic standard was “take it or leave it” from Day One, and the governing documents they “agreed” to basically allow future Boards to tinker and refine the standards within the constraints of the original design intent. The problem is, things change. Style preferences change, lifestyle preferences change, technology changes. What people value changes, too. Most people are not perfectionists, neat freaks, and control freaks. We can live with a non-obtrusive wire or antenna, especially if our neighbors can also live with our basketball hoop and whimsical holiday decor.
CAI is prompting its members to write to their Congressional representatives to oppose HR 4969. On discussion forums, there has been some pushback from membership on CAI’s staunch approach. If you would like to see this legislation passed in the House, click on the ARRL link below to see how you can make your voice heard. Letters must be received by September 12, 2014.
Jim Slaughter blog in opposition to HR 4969
ARRL Call to Action “Crunch Time: Letters Urging House Members to Support H.R. 4969 Due at Headquarters by September 12″