At the Gander RV in Statesville, an American Flag is causing a lot of conversation. That's mostly because of its size.
The 40 by 80-foot flag can be seen from Interstate 77 as you enter the city.
The city has been pushing Gander RV, formerly Camping World, to replace the flag with a smaller one. The city is attempting to fine them $50 a day --dating all the way back to October 2018.
The trouble with the flag:
Officials with Statesville say the issue has nothing to do with patriotism.
They say the size of the flag goes against the permit agreement between Gander RV and the council. According to the city, it violates a city-wide ordinance.
The city's ordinance limits flags to 25 by 40 feet.
The idea behind the ordinance was to block groups that might want to raise large Confederate Flags, similar to those in a couple of locations along I-40.
Marcus Lemonis is the CEO of Camping World, which owns Gander RV. Lemonis believes that keeping the flag up is the right thing to do, and that the ordinance needs to be changed.
"I don’t advocate an ordinance being broken period. Let’s start with that. In this particular case, I feel like the ordinance was flawed. We've been challenging this for years,” he said.
Weeks ago, the company posted on Facebook, claiming the city filed a lawsuit against them and is fining them $50/a day dating back to October 2018, which totals more than $10,000.
NBC Charlotte also reached out to the city of Statesville for a comment. On May 20, NBC Charlotte reported their response which reads, in part:
"FROM THE CITY OF STATESVILLE:
In June, 2018, Gander RV (formerly known as Camping World) filed an application with the Statesville Planning Department to display a 40x25-foot flag on its property. The permit was approved, but when the flag was raised two months later, it was determined the company was flying a 40x80-foot flag, which is prohibited by City ordinance. (Permit is attached)
After several attempts to have Gander RV replace the flag with the permitted size, the City notified Gander in October, 2018, that the $50-per-day fine would be initiated until the flag was replaced.
On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, Statesville City Attorney Leah Messick filed an injunction against Holiday Kamper Co. (owner of Gander RV in Statesville) for violating the City’s regulations on displaying flags. The complaint asks the Court to order Gander RV to comply with the ordinance.
Gander RV has 30 days to respond to the complaint."
'The flag is not coming down under any circumstance':
Lemonis said he'll pay the fines the city is demanding, but he will not take the flag down.
He said he's willing to go to jail over this debate. He’s being sued by the City of Statesville over the flag.
"The flag is not coming down under any circumstance,” Lemonis said.
The Mayor proposed a change in the ordinance that would allow the flag to fly freely.
"Now since the public outcry, all of a sudden an emergency ordinance change happening,” Lemonis said. He said he hasn’t heard from the Mayor personally.
Lemonis believes there shouldn’t be any restriction on the size of a flag. Rather, he says the only times he thinks a flag pole or flag size should be regulated are when health, wellness and safety are factors.
When Statesville filed suit to try to force the removal of the Gander flag, it got a good deal of attention. The flag that many Statesville residents have come to love has now been seen online across the country.
Some longtime residents of Statesville think the city is out of line. Phil Ingram says the flag helps make a first impression of Statesville for people.
“It’s the first thing people see when they enter the town of Stateville and it is a beautiful flag”, said Ingram.
In a statement proposing the ordinance change, Mayor Costi Kutteh wrote,
“People from all over the country have jumped on this issue and called us names I ca’t repeat...When our community’s efforts to conduct business in an orderly lawful manner begins to hurt or businesses, then it is time to put a stop to it.”
The change to the ordinance must be approved by the City Council. The next meeting is set for July 15th.