ARRL and the Community Associations Institute (CAI) — the national association of homeowners associations (HOAs) — have reached consensus on provisions of theAmateur Radio Parity Act, H.R. 1301. ARRL and CAI have worked intensively since February to reach agreement on substitute language for the bill in an effort to move it through the US House Energy and Commerce Committee and to overcome objections to the companion US Senate bill, S. 1685. Along the way, the offices of U.S. Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Greg Walden, W7EQI, (R-OR), and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) mediated and offered assistance.
ARRL Hudson Division Director and Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, called the agreement “a significant development in the League’s 30-year pursuit to secure the ability to erect Amateur Radio antennas in deed restricted communities.”
ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said the League was pleased to have reached an agreement with CAI over new proposed language in this legislation that both ARRL and CAI endorse and support. “We agree with CAI that the substitute amendment is balanced, and we think that this bill’s language is more objective and offers perhaps more guidance to HOAs than would the PRB-1 ‘reasonable accommodation’ test for municipal land use regulations,” he said.
Imlay explained that ARRL did not have the final language for the substitute amendment until late last week, and the amended bill has not been introduced in the House as of yet. ARRL planned no announcement about the text of the amended House bill until it was introduced. However, because the text became available from the House Office of Legislative Counsel, and as CAI released the text to its members, it was decided to release the amended text now.
“The bottom line,” Imlay said, “is that if the bill is enacted, it would allow every amateur living in a deed-restricted community — for the first time in the history of Amateur Radio in the U.S. — the ability to install an effective outdoor antenna.”
“That would benefit thousands of current and future hams living in deed-restricted communities,” Lisenco added.
Imlay explained that the substitute bill would guarantee that a radio amateur living in a deed-restricted community — including condominium or townhouse communities — could install and maintain an “effective outdoor antenna.” Achieving the agreement came without disrupting 30 years of zoning case law that has interpreted the PRB-1 federal preemption and protected radio amateurs from overregulation by zoning authorities. The bill incorporates the basic tenets of PRB-1.
According to the substitute bill’s language, the FCC would enact rules prohibiting the application of deed restrictions that preclude Amateur Radio communication on their face or as applied. Also prohibited would be deed restrictions that do not permit an Amateur Radio operator living in a deed-restricted community to install and maintain an effective outdoor antenna on property under the licensee’s exclusive use or control.
The substitute bill would prohibit deed restrictions that do not impose the minimum practicable restriction on amateur communication to accomplish the lawful purposes of a homeowners association (HOA) seeking to enforce the restriction. Amateurs wishing to install an antenna in a deed-restricted community would have to notify and obtain prior approval of the homeowners association. HOAs would be able to preclude the installation of antennas in common areas — ie, property not under the licensee’s exclusive use.
The substitute measure provides that HOAs could enact reasonable written rules governing height, location, size, and aesthetic impact of outdoor antennas and support structures, as well as installation requirements. Those rules could not preclude amateur communication nor restrict the absolute entitlement of each amateur living in a deed-restricted community to an effective outdoor antenna, however. The amended measure reiterates the strong federal interest in Amateur Radio communication in a licensee’s residence.
“Community associations should fairly administer private land use regulations in the interest of their communities, while nevertheless permitting the installation and maintenance of effective outdoor Amateur Radio antennas,” the negotiated language states. “There exist antenna designs and installations that can be consistent with the aesthetics and physical characteristics of land and structures in community associations while accommodating communications in the Amateur Radio services.”
Lisenco cautioned that getting the Amateur Radio Parity Act signed into law still remains a long process. “Much work needs to be done,” Lisenco said. “ARRL will still need to call upon the entire membership to contact their elected officials, especially in the Senate, to ask for their affirmative vote on this bill,” he stressed.
More information on the Amateur Radio Parity Act, including a copy of the complete substitute amendment agreed to by ARRL and CAI, is available on the ARRL website.