OBSERVATORY BUILDING Zoning Waiver
FORM LETTER for City Code Zone Waivers for Observatory
[the following is provided to you should you wish to construct a small observatory in an urban city setting with code restrictions; I have consulted with many advanced amateurs over the past 50 years and have learned that the pleasant and explanatory approach is by far the best in getting a waiver for a building in your backyard.]
City of _________________ Building Department and Commission
c/o [your name]
RE: Placement of Dome for Astronomical Observatory at _____________________________[address]
I am writing to offer my expertise in the issue of safety and wind hazard damage during
high winds (i.e., hurricanes, storms and tornadoes) as well as requesting a city code waiver
for the small Dome that [________________your name] is wishing to
install on his property.
This area is something that I am highly experienced and qualified to discuss with you
since I have been active in observatory planning and construction for over 38 years. In
my experience from the highlands of Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, Pensacola Florida and
into Hawaii, I have erected more than 75 observatories, all of which are standing today
and none of which have ever suffered damage if constructed of the DOME type.
Please note that the DOME structure is the ideal structure against wind; if it were not
so, then sand and dust would not collect around small savannah plants such as on barrier
islands to create sand DOMES ("dunes"); the people such as the Eskimo culture who live in
the high wind northern and southern latitudes require - NOT choose - domes ("igloos") out
of the necessity to harbor against high and continuous winds.
I have planned and developed observatories at Mauna Kea in Hawaii at an altitude of better
than 21,000 feet where winds blow routinely in excess of 100 mph; office buildings and
other ancillary structures are frequently destroyed or their roofs ripped off if of
conventional construction...but not the observatory domes. This is why astronomers choose
domes for serious work: they are impervious to wind, both when closed and when operating.
In fact I have three domed observatories here in Arkansas that I operate, one atop Petit
Jean Mountain which is exposed to straight line winds in excess of 110 mph pretty much
expected at least one time per month. While other buildings around suffer damage, the
observatories do not.
The dome that [_________________your name] is in possession of is a one-piece dome construction with
a four-piece heavy walled cylinder section which bolts together; once together and sealed,
this unit will NOT blow away....it will NOT separate nor come into pieces which are
hazardous during your hurricanes and possible subsequent tornadoes spawned by such. The
larger domes will withstand winds of over 170 mph at any location if constructed properly,
which the Dome is (I have no interest in resale of Domes....just have installed 37 of them
throughout the country and into Canada); the SMALL domes, such as this will
withstand the forces of winds far greater than larger domes, simply from the physics of
the nature of the structure.
Ideally, every home in your community should have tops made in the shape of
domes....every restaurant in which people huddle during hurricanes or high winds would be
better off with such.....all water towers are - or should be - shaped as a dome to foil
the wind properly. You never see square water towers atop high poles.....hence, homes in
high wind locations should not have square sides either, but obviously they do and will
Regarding zoning, it has been my experience that an attractively designed and built modest
observatory, whether slide off roof or domed, will actually ADD to the value of any neighborhood
in which it resides. There is an upscale, professional and appealing psyche that accompanies
every observatory in every community.
Note that the dome is a perfect aerodynamic structure against wind, able to penetrate
rather than resist wind, just as the fuselage of a large airplane pierces the high winds
it must fly through.
I strongly urge you in the name of scientific pursuits to appreciate the efforts toward
our scientific understanding that Mr. [__________________name] is attempting to do for the community of
[_____________town]. NOTE also, that I very much understand and appreciate your concerns and needs
for some degree of control of structures. Surely an astronomical observatory is an odd
structure to be approving, but you are faced with this and should face this with a very
clear understanding as to why domes exist: to beat the winds, period.
I very much appreciate your time in reading this and your consideration for the
advancement of science in the name of Mr. [_________________name] venture.
My phone numbers are below if you would like to contact me, and my website will give you
some background as to my extensive experience throughout the astronomical community. Have
been serving communities, science and the public for nearly four decades now and have not
been blown away yet.
Very much appreciated.
With best wishes,
Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatories