The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday September 20th

Why an Orange County resident is appealing the county's flag ordinance

Demonstrators wave confederate flags over the American Tobacco Trail I-40 Pedestrian Bridge in Durham on Sunday, July 7.
Buy Photos Demonstrators wave confederate flags over the American Tobacco Trail I-40 Pedestrian Bridge in Durham on Sunday, July 7.

Orange County resident Robert Hall Jr. is challenging a county ruling that a large Confederate flag he raised on his property along Highway 70 violates a new flag ordinance.

The local zoning ordinance to limit flags on residential properties was amended approximately one month after Hall raised the flag on his property. Property owners were given one year to follow the ordinance before the county began issuing violations. 

Orange County Community Relations Director Todd McGee said the appeal was filed to the Orange County Board of Adjustment and will likely be considered at its November meeting. 

“This flag owner has been the only one that has filed an appeal with the county,” McGee said.

In April 2018, Hall raised a 400-square-foot Confederate flag on his property. 

Last week, the pro-Confederate group Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County said in a Facebook post that they helped raise the flag last year in response to Orange County leaders “over stepping their bounds and the Silent Sam conflict.”

“Orange County hates Southern symbols so much, they took it as far as to restrict a man's property rights, free speech and history,” the group said in the Facebook post. 

According to the ordinance, all flags raised by property owners can be no larger than 24-square feet while the flagpole cannot be taller than 54 feet. The ordinance also includes a three flag limit per pole, and only one flagpole is permitted.

Board of Orange County Commissioners Vice Chair Renee Price said the rule does not apply to municipalities, such as Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and the city limits of Mebane. 

McGee said the county Planning and Inspections Department conducted a survey in all the areas in which the ordinance applied to try and find any potential violations.

“They came up with a list of about 12 properties that look like they may be in violation,” McGee said.

Though the ordinance was amended in May 2018, one month after Hall raised his flag, Board of Orange County Commissioners Chair Penny Rich said the amendments were a safety measure and not in response to Hall’s flag content.

“When you think about large-sized flags, it’s about the safety of drivers particularly, and flagpoles coming down across roads and killing people that are driving by,” Rich said. “We’re looking at this as a safety issue, and that’s it.”

Price said the ordinance creates consistency among the size of flags and flagpoles that can be erected in residential and business areas.

“Whenever we have ordinances or policies of that nature, it’s to help with the character of our own environment,” Price said. “We want to respect people’s freedom of speech. Yet, since everyone has their own viewpoint and some people disagree, this way we have some consistency.”

McGee said the Orange County Board of Adjustment would hear the case first, and if they were to decide Hall is still in violation, he could decide to appeal to the state Superior Court.


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