Aldermen to examine flagpole guidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Waves of telephone calls have Natchez Aldermen questioning the city’s recent flagpole guidelines.

Most aldermen said they want to review the policy, which spells out where flagpoles can go and how tall they can be, in more detail before making specific recommendations.

They then hope to meet with the Historic Preservation Commission to suggest changes in the guidelines.

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&uot;We’re not questioning any of the commission members’ patriotism and dedication, but we’ve really caught a lot of flack about this,&uot; said Alderman and Mayor Pro Tem David Massey.

Massey first mentioned the issue during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, when he said aldermen hoped to work with the commission to change the policy.

&uot;We’re entertaining suggestions from the Board of Aldermen,&uot; said Commission Chairperson Marty Seibert.

&uot;We want to do this in a nice way,&uot; Massey said. &uot;We want to make suggestions to the (chairperson) of the commission and see if we can’t work it out, but we do want a policy that’s less restrictive.&uot;

Massey said he cannot name specific changes he wants in the guidelines since he has not yet discussed the issue with other aldermen.

&uot;We haven’t really discussed it as a board,&uot; said Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West. &uot;I’m sure there are changes we’d like to see. Once we get together, we’ll look at it really well.&uot;

Alderwoman Sue Stedman has had 15 constituents complain about the policy. She thinks people have the right to fly the American flag in their front yards, except when a flag is so large that it clashes with a neighborhood’s character.

She also thinks some people do not realize the rules only apply to the historic district.

&uot;And I think we can work out something with the commission that will take care of the problem yet allow people to display flags,&uot; Stedman.

Aldermen did not speak out before because &uot;we wanted to let the process work, but it’s gotten to the point where we’re going to have to do something,&uot; said Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux.

&uot;We want to make sure people have freedom of expression but that the flags do not get so big they block somebody’s view,&uot; she said.

She and Massey said they believe permanent flagpoles should not be restricted so soon after Sept. 11, when patriotism still runs high.

&uot;It’s the wrong time to place restrictions on something like this,&uot; Massey said.

Unlike other aldermen, Jake Middleton said he has gotten many complaints about the guidelines.

Still, he wants the policy to take into account the character of an area and the size and fa?ade of a building, among other factors, when deciding the placement and size of a pole.

&uot;Nobody with common sense is going to put an 80-foot flagpole at a house on Orleans Street,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;But a 3-by-5 flag in front of a big building like Callon Petroleum is not going to look right.&uot;

As the guidelines now stand, a permanent flagpole could not be placed in front of businesses or houses anyway &045;&045; just at churches, schools, nonprofits or governmental buildings.

The only exception would be if historic evidence, such as a photo, showed a flagpole at that location in the past and if the new pole would meet current safety standards.

Business owners and homeowners can still show their patriotism even under the new policy, commission members have pointed out.

For example, the guidelines do not impact existing poles, flags temporarily hung on buildings, flags attached to buildings by angled hanging poles and brackets, or temporary display of flags during holidays on temporary flagpoles.

Alderman Ricky Gray could not be reached for comment.