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The Board of Adjustment for the Lenoir Planning Department has rejected a request for a variance from the owner of a giant inflatable holiday decoration.
Larry Smith got into trouble with the city last fall when he put up a giant Frosty the Snowman inflatable decoration in front of his Christmas tree lot. "I've been there for 25 years and more and about always had a Frosty there, " he told the board Monday night.
Smith admitted the previous decorations were smaller but thinks they still would not have met the city's requirement for signs to be less that 32 square feet. Smith and his attorney argued that Frosty has no writing on it and therefore should not be considered a sign and would not be a violation in the first place.
The zoning rules had been changed in recent years to add the restrictions but Smith said he didn't know he was in violation until informed by a code enforcement officer in November. He was also advised he could face fines for every day that Frosty was up in violation of the ordinances. Smith asked the board to grant a variance for Frosty and was hoping that could eliminate any assessment of fines.
Instead, the board said Smith's request did not meet the state test to grant a variance. The key was that Smith admitted that even without the larger Frosty decoration, his business of selling trees on the corner had always done well.
For a variance to be allowed, he would have to show that following the ordinance would result in an undue hardship. He couldn't. Other issues involved public safety and right of way requirements. In all the cases, the board said Smith's arguments did not meet the test. In the end, the board voted unanimously not to grant the waiver.
After the meeting Smith said he was disappointed but still plans to sell trees on the corner "For many years to come." He also indicated that there was still a chance Frosty could be back. "I have been told that the city may take another look at the rules and possibly allow a process for a temporary permit for seasonal decorations like Frosty."
As for the fines, Smith said he has not received an official assessment from the city but expects it to total around $1000. "I have $933 in the Save Frosty Fund that people contributed to and I was hoping to donate that to Hospice," he said. Instead, the money will be used to help pay the fines, if indeed they are assessed as expected.
Board members said the decision was just a matter of following the rules that were put in place to help the city deal with clutter along the streets.