STATESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - Statesville’s Mayor has asked the Statesville Planning Department to draft a text amendment that would allow a large flag displayed at Gander RV on I-77 to continue flying.
Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh has asked the department to draft a text amendment to the city’s ordinance that regulates the size of flags displayed in a highway business zone.
If passed, this amendment will permit the flag currently displayed at Gander RV on I-77 to continue flying.
Kutteh said the text amendment must first be presented to the Statesville Planning Board before Council can consider the request. Because a change to an ordinance requires two votes, officials say the matter should be resolved at the July 15 Council meeting.
“In speaking with city council members, I believe this is the direction the majority of council would like to go at this time. Some terrible things have been said about our wonderful town,” said Kutteh. "And it hasn’t come from our citizens. But people from all over the country have jumped on this issue and called us names I can’t repeat. When our community’s efforts to conduct business in an orderly, lawful manner begins to hurt our businesses, then it’s time to put a stop to it.”
The statement came after the Associated Press reported that businessman and reality television star Marcus Lemonis says he’ll visit Gander RV in Statesville on Thursday. In an interview Wednesday with AP, Lemonis said the flag stays even if he’s jailed for contempt of court.
“We had hoped Mr. Lemonis would make the request (to amend the ordinance) himself, but he has made no attempt to contact the City,” said Kutteh.
The release, posted on the City of Statesville’s website, says repeated efforts by Statesville City Manager Ron Smith to speak with Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis about resolving the issue have been unsuccessful.
“We are aware of his announced visit to Statesville on Thursday, but he has not contacted anyone in the City about a meeting,” said Smith.
The city of Statesville limits the size of flags in Gander RV’s location to 25 feet by 40 feet (7.6 meters to 12 meters). The city says Gander RV’s flag is 40 feet by 80 feet (12 meters by 24 meters).
The city previously filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order an injunction to force the local business to take down the giant American flag.
City Councilman Roy West says the flag controversy has not been good for anyone. City leaders, especially, he said have been the subject of verbal abuse.
“We’ve been beaten up, called anti-American by everyone in the country and that is not true,” he said.
West says the rules on flag sizes were made with good intentions, but he also believes there may be an accommodation possible in this case. He says he has talked with the Mayor and other council members and ideas on how to deal with the issue are being formulated.
The bottom line, he says, “We are not gonna win this battle so we are going to try to find some way to resolve it.”
West says there are more important matters that the council should focus attention on and he, for one, would like to “put this behind us and call it a day.” As of Thursday, the lawsuit filed three weeks ago remains. The company has until the end of next week to file its response.
West says the city probably will change rules to allow the flag to remain, but there’s been no hard proposal and the lawsuit has not yet been withdrawn.
Marcus Lemonis, the owner of Camping World/Gander RV stores came to Statesville late Thursday and said his attorneys are working on that at this time. He said he was surprised that no city council members or the Mayor came out to see him.
“They knew I was coming,” he said, “but did not contact me.”
Lemonis did tell reporters he thought the flag issue was more than about his business and should be about what it stands for. He says he wants the city to have a discussion about the flag and if leaders can find non-health or safety reason for limiting the size, they should not.
Lemonis says he is in this “all the way.” If the case goes to court and he is ordered to take the flag down, he says he won’t. “I’m willing to go to jail over this.”
In the meantime, $50 dollar a day fines continue. The total is well over $11,000 so far.