SHELBURNE – One-on-one talks with other amateur radio operators as far as Moscow are firmly on the horizon for a Shelburne man.
The construction of two antenna towers on Zachary Mangenello’s estate on Dorset Street – a point of contention with its neighbors for at least a year – was approved in a private hearing by the Development Review Board on Wednesday evening.
On paper, and later, in balloon tests trying to approximate the height of the towers, some people found the structures too tall for the neighborhood.
Radio towers downsized
Compromises were made along the way. The new structures will be measurably less of a thorn in the side: originally conceived at 70 feet, the final plans shone a year after his application was submitted for a pair of amateur radio antennas. A Shelburne man’s project gets off the ground with slender, Guywire-borne towers that stretch to 40 and 60 feet.
If the towers ever collapse, they’ll stay on his property. If he moves, he’ll have to pay to remove them.
Lack of persistence – and patience – draws on more than a century of niche science. His community of amateur colleagues, also known as the “ham”, has been exchanging both casual and urgent notes over non-commercial radio frequencies (originally in Morse code) since the 1890s.
Hams touts the technology as the forerunner of the Internet and still serves to connect, entertain, and alert distant communities to emergencies when cellular and broadband service goes down.
The FCC takes these hobbyists seriously enough to require them to be licensed.
Shelburne zoning regulations limit the height of these antennas to 35 feet in this part of town, which is roughly equidistant from Spear Street and Hinesburg Road.
Amateur radio provides backup emergency communications
The prospect of emergency communications offered by a local amateur radio operator and lack of openness to public education and research projects ultimately influenced the citizen-led review panel.
So is the Federal Communications Commission, which strongly advises that local regulators are making “reasonable arrangements” for amateur operators – not only for practical reasons but also because of “the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.”
In addition to Moscow, Mangenello lists Japan and Hawaii as his wireless “destinations”.
And he’s only an amateur in a limited technical sense. Now in his early 40s, Mangenello received his first ham license at the age of 14, according to his application to Shelburne.
He has held the highest class of amateur licenses since he was 17; He is now a card-bearing member of the Vermont Department of Public Safety Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.
“My own engineering research,” Mangenello wrote in his application, “included wireless mesh networks, internet connections, radio astronomy, weak signal propagation assessment and antenna design.”
The construction of the new towers will take about a year. They have no lights – they’re below the FAA’s 200-foot threshold for radio interference.
The callsign K1ZK can stay in the air if the network fails
What if the grid fails in an ice storm? Mangenello’s in-house station (callsign K1ZK) is kept connected thanks to a solar-charged array and a collection of Tesla Powerwall batteries.
Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.
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