Appeals board disapproves Trimble flagpole

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Dyer County Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday declined to approve permission for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place an 80-foot flagpole near Pierce Cemetery near Trimble.

After a contentious 90-minute meeting, the panel of chairman Almous Austin, Jimmy Putman, Ben Ragan and Terry Parker voted unanimously to allow the SCV to seek a "text amendment" to allow flagpoles higher than 35 feet in areas zoning Forestry, Agriculture and Recreation (FAR).

The request will be prepared by the state planner for the long process to add it to the list of exceptions.

The request first is relayed to the Dyer County Regional Planning Commission for approval. If ratified by the commission, the text amendment goes to each of the county’s three municipal planning organization in Dyersburg, Newbern and Trimble, where each must approve it. A public hearing is then set before the issue is picked up by the Dyer County Commission, which must approve the measure by a majority vote.

The issue came to the BZA more than three months after the SCV’s plans were publicized and six weeks after the flagpole was placed on land offered by Trimble SCV life member Hamilton Parks.

The issue quickly moved from the flagpole to what has been on the structure since early July, a Confederate flag.

Bill Foster of Union City, commander of the 10-county SCV division backing the flagpole as part of a complex "for history, heritage and honor," is part of the national organization’s effort to place Confederate "mega-flags" along routes across the Southern U.S.

Trimble Mayor Jim Stark called the flag "repugnant to more than a few people" and said its prominence atop Pierce Cemetery "would greatly diminish" the community’s future for residential and industrial development.

"It will make it difficult to develop our community," said Stark.

Stark used a proclamation approved by a majority of the Trimble town board as a sign of local indignation to the flag.

"They steamrolled in here, did what they did, then ask what they should have done before they did what they did. It’s a tactic."

Trimble Alderman Raymond Ballard said he didn’t vote for the proclamation.

"As far as I can tell, this is a personal thing," said Ballard.

"You have to remember a lot of Americans see that flag as a symbol of repression," said Stark.

Stark added he had read a recent article on the SCV in the Christian Science Monitor noting how the group’s national leadership had ties with Aryan Nation and other white supremacist organizations.

Foster retorted the SCV was for all Americans who fought "in the War Between the States – white, black, yellow, brown."

County commissioner Alan Burchfiel, who represents the Trimble area in his district, criticized Stark for not discussing the matter with him before the meeting.

"I know Bill Foster. He’s a fine Christian gentleman. He wouldn’t be tied up with anything like this that Jim has portrayed."

Stark said he had been upbraided by his pastor "for not showing leadership" on the matter.

The SCV’s legal counsel, Allen Nohsey from Union City, said he hoped to find a gap in the county’s zoning ordinance that would allow the flagpole.

The group had asked the BZA to look at approving the flagpole request by three methods – a zoning variance; a special exception/use permitted on appeal; or an interpretation.

State Planner Don Bunton said the variance would not work, given the small area of concern.

"It would be spot zoning," said Bunton.

Board member Charles James said the panel needed to shy away from interpreting anything on the matter.

© 2008 State Gazette

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