City makes business owner remove American flag, pole is too high

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.

Flying proud

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.

City of St. George officials forced the owner of Nielson RV to remove a newly-placed customized American flag from his business stating that the flag was a code violation, St. George, Utah, April 2017 | Photo courtesy of Nielson RV, St. George News

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.

Code enforcement

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.

The American flag at Nielson RV during a windstorm Sunday. Owner Scott Nielson said there were “some veterans with about 20 cars in this parking lot that came in and they saved the flag from touching the ground.” St. George, Utah, April 23, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Austin Maslow Skinner, St. George News

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.

Permitting process

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.

Nielson RV’s flagpole that for a short time staffed the American Flag is a point of contention between the business owner and the city of St. George. City officials said Friday the issue has nothing to do with the American flag but the 150-foot pole on which it flies, about five times what the city ordinance allows. St. George, Utah, April 28, 2017 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News

“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.

A quandary

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.”


Copy of the first page of the Courtesy Notice from St. George to Nielson RV dated April 17, 2017, re violation of ordinance for flagpole exceeding height restrictions in city ordinances; pages 2 and 3 omitted, 2 being blank, 3 including a barely legible photograph of the flag flying similar to that included in the attached St. George News report. | Copy of notice courtesy of Nielson RV, St. George News

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Billy Madison April 29, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I applaud Mr. Nielson, fly the flag anyway. I would also like to attend the new flag raising when it happens, just don’t let anybody do any dancing or the cops will show up.

  • voice of reason April 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

    So because it’s done in the name of patriotism anything goes and you don’t have to follow the laws of the city in which you chose to place your business?
    And refusing to go down and pay the fee for the zoning exception?
    Screw that guy and I hope the city shoves the $300 up his rear end.

  • Chris April 29, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    sounds like Nazi Germany to me!

  • youcandoit April 29, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I certainly understand both issues, the city is looking out for everyone’s safety. Why doesn’t the business owner understand that?

    • Robert April 29, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      He does, if you had bothered to read the full article. He had a company design the pole to all the standards in effect that the city would allow the public to see. He stated that even the city can’t tell him what is required, because they have NO idea. It is all about “FOLLOW THE MONEY”, nothing more.

    • mesaman April 29, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      You offer the usual liberal socialist logic when it comes to patriotism. What safety did you have in mind specifically? Maybe you and “voice of insanity” should start a protest parade? Be sure to wave the hammer and sickle.

  • Proud Rebel April 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    There is no patriotism in this business of fying the flag. For him, it is just another venue for advertising, for drawing attention to his business.
    And you can bet that this whole thing was nothing more than a well thought out publicity stunt! He knew full well that this was going to be a news story that would give him free publicity. And he will most likely milk it for all it’s worth. If he has to pay a fine, he doesn’t care, because that small fine will give him thousands of dollars worth of free publicity.
    In my opinion, using the flag for publicity is simply despicable. But then nothing he will do surprises me.
    Lifetime warranty, anyone?

  • Paul April 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    So this is because it might be unsafe and needs to be looked into. However $300 of Scott Nielsen’s money in St. George City’s coffers will make it all OK. Doesn’t surprise me one whit since this is also the same city that forces people to take out a business license for having a private residential rental.
    The way I see it, the St George should be bending over backward, and thanking Mr. Nielsen for not charging the city for the thousands of dollars that he has invested to fly this wonder symbol in their city.

  • tcrider April 29, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    This is not about how patriotic the business owner is, it is about how the business owner uses patriotism to make money for himself.
    There seems to be many misconceptions in southern Utah and how many of the self proclaimed patriots deem themselves as patriots.
    There is one idiot that posts this site that likes to keep reminding everyone that he is a vet, and then this same idiot will ask other people posting messages, their level of academics, If this same moron actually did any military time, I think it was only burning sewage and nothing more, the fumes must of really gotten to him.
    I really wish the self proclaimed patriots were real vets instead of these make believe couch potatoes.

    • Robert April 29, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Partner, I am a REAL Vet with 20+ years service and several YEARS of combat service. This is all about follow the money for St George and believe me, Mr Nielson is a very patriotic person. Maybe if you wanta be computer commandos stopped hiding behind your keyboards and actually went out and checked you would see, but that is obviously not your forte.
      I salute Mr Nielson and his unselfish gesture to our country.

    • comments April 29, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      LOL, I know who that is. The same one who thinks I’m ‘too mean and hateful’ to the zionists. too funny

      • Henry April 29, 2017 at 3:53 pm

        Bob, I don’t think you’re “mean and hateful” about “Zionists”. I think anyone that believes the Israelis are behind 9/11 is delusional.

    • Henry April 29, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      Tcrider – what a coward you are, that you’re too scared to send me a comment directly. I REPLIED with my military and academic background, after you and one other internet hero challenged me about them. Then both you and he were found lacking the very credentials about which you were contesting!

      If you want to verify and compare one another’s military records, send me a date/time and location to meet. I’ll bring my Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait awards. You can bring your National Guard Annual Training certificates.

  • theone April 29, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    This kind of overstated patriotism fogs over the real intent of patriotism. Clowns like this are nothing more than an inflated ego.
    Follow the law or do something to change it, but by no means act like you’re being persecuted on a false issue.
    What a dingbat.

    • desertgirl April 29, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      Overstated patriotism? Sounds like the typical garbage out of the progressives and fascists.

  • mmsandie April 29, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Congratulations got Neilson Rv and his patriotism.. Fly the flag.. No matter where you arein Dt George look how high the temple us and in cases Morona on top, which has fallen off in some storms around usa.. I hope he put it back up.. If the pole us made correctly why not fly it..some people try and control everything in this city.. Be proud, we live in a great some what safe country..

    • comments April 29, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Almost totally incoherent, lol. I read it and it’s like the words are cooking my brain, lol 😉

      • 42214 April 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm

        The heat from one match would cook your brain.

  • Robert April 29, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you Mr Nielson and your unselfish act of saluting all the Veterans in our county and showing the travelers on I-15, there are some actual patriotic folks in St George, unlike the city of St George wants you to think.

  • chupacabra April 29, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    This flag worship is SICKENING! Muh Sky-cloth!

    • desertgirl April 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      Then go live elsewhere, and , please take your fellow whatever you think you are and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • NickDanger April 29, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    “…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.”

    I detect some pole envy from the City of St. George.

  • comments April 29, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I read the whole thing. As cool of a thing as a giant flag is I think this guy is being totally disingenuous. All this bs about ‘symbol of freedom’ and his grandpa the wwII vet–all this bs doesn’t hold water. The guys owns and RV lot and is probably a savvy businessman, and I think his priority first and foremost was advertising. He didn’t mention if he was a veteran himself. And i’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned, but would a structure this tall need approval from the FAA or..? Is there flashing marker lights installed on the thing? 150ft is hugely tall for this area and this guy should’ve had a clue, esp being a savvy businessman. I’m calling total BS on this one. Like I said a huge ol’ monster flag is cool but this guy is trying to pull the wool. The absolute least he could’ve done is get city approval, and he knew this all along. So, as others have mentioned here: total bs. end of story.

    • comments April 29, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Plus, what is 300 bucks to this dude? He probably paid what, 10?, 20?, even 30 or more thousand for that poll? Please!, give us a fricken break.

      • comments April 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        Almost reminds me of old man Bundy not paying his grazing fees. It’s the same line of thinking.

      • comments April 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm

        One final thought with this: my grand dad served in wwII naval combat, dad served in vietnam, I served in Iraq. We don’t go blathering on about it like it’s some sales pitch to sell RVs. This guy has gone kinda low with this and shame on him. Just go thru the approval process–since the mayor is for it it’ll probably glide right thru. I like a big ol’ flag but shame on this guy, really.

  • mater April 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    To the city and to you who have a problem with Nelson’s or any one else showing the colors of our country think what that flag means befor you take it down or belittle those who have the ability the love and the pride to fly it high and proud. I defy you to come up with any reason why that flag at that location is a safety issue it flys at one of the lowest points in our valley how can it be to tall?
    Any one complaining is in serious need of a hobby I guarantee no person who has ever served this country is complaining and if you haven’t given of your self you don’t have room to complain about our flag

    • Proud Rebel April 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      So, as far as you are concerned, using the flag, and the legal situation, for cheap publicity, and wanna be sensationalism, is commendable?
      And anyone who disagrees with you is what?
      It’s really unintelligent to try to speak for other people, when you have no idea who they are, or what they have, or have not done for our country.

  • Not_So_Much April 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    More of the uniqueness of St George code enforcement. Talk with cousin Bob before you begin. If you get a replacement furnace or central air good luck having it permitted and if you do, don’t expect a real inspection, just because it’s on the books doesn’t mean you can count on it. Oh, thinking about solar on your roof? Now that’s funny if you’re really wanting it done and inspected to code. Of course should you have a fire in your home, good luck.
    Code enforcement, well it depends.

  • WhatTheHeck April 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Look at me, I demand you look at me…I’m super patriotic…come buy an RV from me. No one else is as patriotic as me. Wait. Did you stop looking at me?

  • NotSoFast April 29, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I think the man should go through the process. By doing so, more attention will be drawn to the inept, ‘look at me’ code enforcement department. Which in turn draws attention to individual city officials. Which ones belong to the ‘good old boys’ club? Remember when no buildings could not be constructed if they were taller than the temple? i.e. less than 4 stories tall. The $300 fee to get the process started? Pay the damn fee. The advertisement your receiving from this article is worth far more than the tax deduction you can write off as a business deduction. And look at the amount of comment! A large amount of these citizens, if and when they want to buy a RV, will think, ‘Lets go over to the smaller American flag place that got screwed and look around. I know I would.

  • Rainbow Dash April 29, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    “This issue is about over-regulation, about code enforcement, practicing Unrighteous Dominion….”

    I think it’s pretty clear that Scott Nielson has listening to WAY MANY right wing nutjobs again.

  • epicket1 April 29, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Figures. The commies at city hall should get out of this country and go live in North Korea where they belong. Soldiers fought and died for the right to display the flag. I am getting tired of the mormon good old boys quashing our freedoms.

  • arrowone April 30, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Let’s get this straight. If he pays $300 it will stand as is? I see a fundraiser in the works.

  • voice of reason April 30, 2017 at 7:34 am

    $300 says the moron doesn’t have engineered drawings for the flagpole and the installation was sketchy as hell. A pole that size require a fairly substantial chunk of concrete in the ground to hold it up (probably at least 10 feet high by 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep, if not more) and I bet that jamoke just invited his buddies over and dug a little hole and threw some home depot bought ready mix concrete in the hole.

  • justsaying April 30, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Flag? What flag? All I ever noticed was an incredibly huge RV lot and wondering if he is really going to be able to sell every one of them things.

    • darkgoddess April 30, 2017 at 8:01 am

      LOL @justsaying. My thoughts exactly.

  • flicker April 30, 2017 at 10:18 am

    It is pretty clear this is about advertising, not patriotism. Just like spotlights or balloon strings or any other gimmick a business uses to attract people to their location. I love the flag and think it is great if he wants to fly a normal size flag on a normal size pole. I fly my flag for special holidays or events. But if the city permits this it will have to permit it for any other business or homeowner. The view of our city could become one giant advertising flag display. Perhaps the next business will want a 150 foot pole with a 480 square foot flag with golden arches, a chevy emblem, or egg rolls, since free speech allows that expression as well (not advertising, of course, just an expression of the owners passionate beliefs). This self righteous posturing is hypocritical, and the city should restrict him to the 35 foot height.

  • dkidder April 30, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    How dare a subject of the government celebrate his freedom without first paying the crown and seeking permission from the current authority. What does he think this is, a free country?

  • NaturallyCurious May 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I know the person who manufactured this pole. This pool was designed by an engineer and the base is 20ft underground. The pole is safe. It will not fall down. Safety is a bogus excuse on behalf of the city. Not to mention it’s only one of the city councilman that have an issue. Sorry but nobody from St George had an issue with the flagpole. Just a council member trying to use their authority and generate a small revenue. Just like hurricanes issue with Baristas bull.

    • comments May 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      The guy is breaking a city ordinance. Why is he so special that he can just sidestep it altogether? He should have found out the legality of it before dumping a bucket of cash into building it. Why would an experienced business owner not do this?

  • debbie May 1, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    A commercial builder for commercial flags built this pole and flag. One whose credentials reference comes from Washington d.c. exactly who is st. George going to hire as an inspector to check this design that can match the reputation of the builder? Com’on st. George, check the license and insurer of the design and builder and be on your merry way.. if it costs 300 to make a couple calls to do that, for the sake of patriotism may a patriotic city fund it to the delight of its patriotic residents and businesses.

  • odin6000 June 20, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    WOW WHAT A JOKE. You know for as “Conservative” Utah and the city of Saint George are. I would of thought it was fine. But then I remember that this is the
    “LDS Capital Of The World” and nothing in the city of Saint George can be taller than the LDS Temple. SMH what a joke!!!! Times are changing when is this town going to realize that the LDS Church can not and will not run the place any more!!!

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