On Monday, the Statesville Planning Board in North Carolina scraped together a quorum of five members during a special midday meeting and approved a recommendation to Statesville City Council to increase the flag size limit.
This story by Megan Suggs originally appeared in Statesville Record & Landmark.
The Council Chambers were surprisingly empty of news cameras or outspoken citizens. Only a handful of city staff sat on the benches as five of six board members, one county member and two alternates discussed the history, reasoning and possible amendments to Statesville’s flag ordinance.
The existing ordinance limits flag size to 25-by-40 feet. The flag flying off Interstate 77 in front of Gander RV on Morland Drive is 40-by-80 feet, the size of a tennis court. City staff suggested the ordinance be amended to limit flag size to 40-by-80 feet.
These large flags are only allowed in areas zoned for Highway Business or General Business. The property must have at least 100 feet along an interstate.
“We’re not allowed to regulate the content of flags, so basically, the American flag can be treated no different than the Canadian flag or the ISIS flag,” Statesville Senior Planner Andrew Ventresca said when asked for the reasoning behind the ordinance.
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling found that regulating the content of a flag is violating an individual’s freedom of speech. Ventresca said council was looking to avoid giant flags with offensive content by limiting the size of all flags in Statesvillle.
Board member Todd Lange suggested the board recommend council still fine Gander RV for not following the flag ordinance since Oct. 15.
“I don’t think we want to be put in the position of changing our ordinance because someone doesn’t like it,” Lange said. “That’s a matter of council and voters and public opinion.”