MOUNT VERNON — The city of Mount Vernon’s recent announcement that it would begin enforcing a ban on satellite dish antennae in front yards of properties within the city might get a close look from the Federal Communications Commission.
City ordinance Chapter 1177 regulates the location and construction of dish-type satellite signal receiving antennae within the city. The stated purpose of this regulation is to protect the public health, safety and welfare of residents. It points specifically to the maintenance of utility easements, fire safety access, prevention of accumulation of noxious weeds and debris and the reasonable aesthetic concerns of neighborhood property owners.
In a previous interview on this subject, Mayor Richard Mavis said, “(Front yard installation) is a violation of city ordinance. We consider a satellite dish mounted in a yard as an accessory building and it requires a permit.”
The FCC has rules in place governing what a local governmental group can and cannot do as far as regulating the installation of these types of dish antennae.
The FCC Web site on the subject states the commission was directed by Congress in section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to regulate installations of video receiving antennae. The commission adopted its Over-the-Air Reception Devices rule which has been in effect since October 1996.
Basically, the rule prohibits local governments from restricting installation of dish antennae in three separate instances. First, if the local rules impose an unreasonable delay in the installation of the dish. Second, if the local rules impose an unreasonable increase in the cost of installation, maintenance or use of the dish. Third if the local rules would preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.
On Tuesday, the city received a letter from a lobbying organization called The Satellite Broadcasting and Communication Association informing the city of the association’s position that the city’s ordinance did not conform with the FCC regulations.
The matter was turned over to City Law Director Bill Smith. Smith was in court and not available for comment this morning. His office did say he had studied the letter from the association and would be preparing a response.
“What our ordinance does is when [the dish] is treated as an accessory building, you can’t put it in your front yard,” explained Safety-Service Director Dave Glass. “If someone lived in a house where there was no way they could get an acceptable signal from the backyard, we would have to give an exception. It can be on the building, on the roof or in the backyard. Anywhere you can (legally) put an accessory building. ”
Glass said the city’s interpretation of the ordinance treats the dish the same way it treats a garage or any other building.
“If the house sits back more than 30 feet, you could put the dish in the front yard,” Glass said. “The standard setback for a house is 30 feet from the frontage. If a house is set back 60 feet, the dish could be installed in the front yard between the 30 and 60 foot area.”
Glass said the city feels the ordinance does not violate the FCC rules. It does allow for a variance if any allowed location does not result in a direct line of sight between the satellite and the dish.
“We feel our ordinance is flexible enough that we don’t have to worry about it being in compliance,” Glass said.