ST. GEORGE — A St. George business owner feels he’s paying a price for patriotism after being issued a code-enforcement violation from the city of St. George stating that a flagpole displaying the American flag at his RV dealership is in violation of city ordinance.
See video top of this report.
However, city officials said the business owner didn’t obtain a conditional use permit for a variance allowing for the pole’s height, which they said is five times higher than what the ordinance allows.
For a short period of time, motorists traveling along Interstate 15 were greeted in St. George with a stunning symbol of national pride as a spectacular supersize American flag came into view just north of the Bluff Street Exit 6.
The flag, spanning 60 feet by 80 feet, waved through the sky from the top of a 150-foot pole erected approximately two months ago in the parking lot of Nielson RV at 341 E. Sunland Drive.
Scott Nielson, owner of Nielson RV, said he had the flag custom made by Colonial Flag, a northern Utah company that was featured on “NFL Films Presents,” showcasing a 300-foot, 1,100-pound flag assembled by the company for the NFL. The company’s impressive flags could also be seen draped on the Capitol building on this year’s Inauguration Day in the District of Columbia.
While Nielson’s flag wasn’t quite as large as the NFL’s flag, it was large enough to get people’s attention and spark plenty of praise and “bounteous comments” from those appreciating Nielson’s show of patriotism.
However, when Old Glory caught the attention of the city of St. George, the response wasn’t as positive as Nielson had hoped.
Two months after the pole was erected and approximately one week after the flag was raised, Nielson said he received a notice from the city dated April 18 stating his dealership was in violation of city code 10-14-13 and that he needed to remove the flag until he can obtain the proper exceptions.
The notice further stated:
This over height flagpole has not been approved by planning commission or city council. Please correct the violations before 05/02/2017. A Code Enforcement Officer will check after this date to determine if the violations have been corrected.
“We received notice that the height of the pole was too high and that we needed an exception,” Nielson said, “to go to the city and pay $300 for a variance to fly the symbol of freedom.”
Prior to the flagpole going up, Nielson said he had awarded the project to a sign company in town that ensured every effort would be made to abide by city ordinances in the installation.
Symbol of freedom
Around the time Nielson received the notice, a strong windstorm hit Southern Utah and caused damage to the ringlets on the flag, Nielson said, resulting in the flag having to be taken down for repair.
“Luckily, it was on a Sunday and we had some veterans with about 20 cars in this parking lot that came in and they saved the flag from touching the ground,” Nielson said, adding: “What an awesome experience and patriotism we have in our community.”
Nielson said he erected the flagpole on his RV lot to honor veterans including his his grandfather, Bill Sampson, who served in World War II and was commemorated in Washington, D.C., for the service he performed for the country.
“I do that because of my grandpa and also for all those others out there that have sons and daughters, mothers and fathers that are serving this great nation,” Nielson said. “I love this country and I want to show my patriotism by flying the symbol of freedom.”
“This is a great community,” he said. “There should be no limitations, no exceptions needed by the City Council or any municipality government.”
Citizens shouldn’t have to pay money to fly the American flag, Nielson said.
City officials said Friday the issue has nothing to do with the American flag. The city’s issue is with the height of the flagpole and concerns that it may pose a safety risk, Marc Mortensen, St. George assistant to the city manager, said.
“I think everyone loves the American flag, and the city, of course; we fly the flag at all of our facilities and all of our buildings,” Mortensen said, “but we currently do not have anything that is quite as high as that flagpole. One hundred and fifty feet is quite high for the city of St. George – that’s well beyond what the ordinance allows for the safety of the public. In fact, in this case, it’s about five times higher than what the ordinance allows.”
According to the city ordinance, Mortensen said, anyone wanting to erect a structure taller than 35 feet would have to go through the permitting process, which involves visiting with zoning and planning, going up the chain through the planning commission and eventually before the City Council, to obtain a conditional use permit from the city.
“We’re actually trying to help (Nielson) get through the process,” Mortensen said. “I think we all like the flag itself. We just want to make sure and ensure that it’s actually built correctly, that it’s safe, that it won’t come down, won’t fall and crash into the road or a building or, heaven forbid, a person.”
Nielson said he believes the height requirements ordinance is antiquated and needs to be changed.
He said he is trying to resolve the issue with city officials, who have told him he needs an exception, but no one with the city has been able to tell him what the exception will be.
“I don’t know what to do,” Nielson said, “I’m in a quandary because I don’t know if I need to cut the pole in half, if I can even fly the flag because how do I rectify the situation if the flag’s in the air and how do I meet the deadlines by May 2 if I don’t know what those exceptions are with the city?”
Nielson said citizens need clear and concise laws on what to do and that the city’s overregulation, code enforcement and practicing unrighteous dominion needs to stop.
“No citizen should have to pay to be heard among the City Council to determine whether or not he or she can fly the American flag,” Nielson added.
Mortensen said the permitting fee is $300 and the process could take a couple months. He said the city hasn’t told Nielson that he can’t have the flag or flagpole – just that the flagpole needs to be approved through the proper channels to ensure it is structurally sound in accordance with the laws of St. George.
“Obviously, we would like to resolve the matter with him and that would involve him coming in, filling out the application and going through the permitting process that we’ve established at the City of St. George,” Mortensen said. “It’s a law of the land in St. George and we hope that one of our residents, especially an upstanding resident like him, would actually comply with the law.”
However, if Nielson doesn’t comply with the law, Mortensen said there is a potential for criminal charges, including a class C misdemeanor.
Go big or go to jail
Ultimately, Nielson said he plans on putting Old Glory back on the pole once it’s repaired.
“When that flag arrives and comes back, we’re gonna put it in the air,” Nielson said. “We’re not going to pay the City of St. George $300, let alone two copper pennies to fly the symbol of freedom, and no citizen of this country should be asked otherwise to do so. If criminal charges are filed, at this point, it’s go big or go to jail.”
In a post on Facebook concerning the matter, St. George City Mayor Jon Pike said he loves the tall pole and huge flag and looks forward to everything getting worked out, fixed and the flag back up.
“The flag quickly became an awesome focal point in the middle of the valley,” Mayor Pike said in the post, “and as I said, I look forward to seeing it back up.”
- 20170417 Courtesy Notice from St. George to Nielson RV re violation
- City of St. George Code 10-14-13: Height Requirements; Exceptions
- Nielson RV Flag Pole Official Engineering Plans, Structural Details and Calculations
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