Flagpole creates controversy in Rockbridge Co.

ROCKRBIDGE Co., (WSET) -- An 83-foot flagpole and Confederate flag are causing a stir in Rockbridge County, but not because of the controversial flag. Instead, it's the pole that is causing the problems.

Thursday, the pole was erected in anticipation of a flag ceremony for the Virginia Flaggers, but the county says the pole and the 20x30 flag will have to come down because they violate three different ordinances.

Christopher Slaydon, the assistant director of community development for the county explained them saying, "The structures itself have to be 20 feet from the edge of the road right of way. Not from the edge of the road, but the edge of the road right of way. They're about 18 feet in the front zoning violation. "

He said that a building permit was never issued either, and "You are required to get a building permit for any flagpole that exceeds 30 feet." At 83 feet, the flagpole at 172 Midland Trail almost triples that.

Slayon also explained that because the property is located within the Tourism Corridor Overlay, a board has to approve all structures before they can be erected.

Slaydon said his office tried to warn both the property owners and the tenants about the zoning ordinances when he learned about the flagpole. "That letter was drafted on Thursday, unfortunately, the conversations and the letter were ignored and the pole went up," he said. Slaydon said because time was of the essence, the letters were hand delivered.

Brian Rowsey is the one who put the pole up, and he's says he's not giving in so easily. "Not one customer has come in and complained about this pole. People take pictures, people come in. I got more business that I've ever gotten. This pole will stay," Rowsey promised.

Rowsey says this is a personal attack against him, saying "They've always picked on me. I bought a horse one time, they made me come get rid of my horse. I bought a horse farm, they made me get rid of my horse. I built an apartment complex, they made everybody move out of it because I was in residential."

However, the county says that isn't the case and that this is simply a zoning issue. "On the day that we wrote the prohibitive letter, on Thursday, I also wrote out two other zoning violation letters on building setbacks," Slaydon pointed out.

Rowsey says while the county may get those handled, he's standing his ground in the face of fines and possible jail time. "They said they would charge me with a misdemeanor and lock me up. They can come lock me up today, I'm not moving that pole a foot. It's not being moved," he vowed.

The county mailed and hand delivered a violation letter to the property owners and the Rowseys. They also sent one by certified mail to the Virginia Flaggers. According to the letter, the flag and flagpole must come down in 45 days or there will be penalties.

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