The owners of a small piece of land that houses a Confederate battle flag next to Interstate 95 lost a battle last week. Church... Battle over Confederate flagpole: County board affirms zoning violation
Deputy county attorney Rob Robinson speaks about the case before the Chesterfield Board of Zoning Appeals last week.

The owners of a small piece of land that houses a Confederate battle flag next to Interstate 95 lost a battle last week.

Church Road resident Catherine H. Hendricks purchased the land at 2501 Old Bermuda Hundred Road from James and Barbara Eaton last year. Hendricks and the Virginia Flaggers were issued a notice of zoning violation Oct. 31. The Chesterfield Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously affirmed the violation notice at the end of a Feb. 6 hearing.

Deputy county attorney Rob Robinson spoke on behalf of the Chesterfield Planning Department. He said the case involved several legal issues. The 68-foot-tall flagpole exceeds the 50-foot height limit, is 27 feet too close to the right-of-way along Old Bermuda Hundred Road, and is not being used for farming, he said, noting the latter would establish the right to have a flagpole as an accessory use.

“We take no pleasure in taking people to court,” Robinson said. “The content of the flag is absolutely immaterial to us.” He noted that county Planning Director Andrew Gillies sent a zoning determination letter about the flagpole to Sandston resident Grayson Jennings of the Virginia Flaggers on Feb. 13, 2018.

David Konick, a Rappahannock County attorney representing the Flaggers, said Chesterfield’s zoning ordinance was being applied in an unfair manner. Konick said the zoning violation notice was improper because it was signed by Ted Barclay, a county planning administrator, when the ordinance gives that authority only to the planning director, Andrew Gillies.

Konick disagreed with the county’s determination that the Flaggers needed to use the 0.8-acre parcel as a farm. “The argument that my clients have to go out and plant some tomatoes so they can have a flagpole doesn’t make any sense,” he said. He later noted that the land used to be part of a larger agricultural parcel located on the east side of I-95. Jennings said the Eatons had originally planted millet on the property.

“The Planning Department doesn’t like the flag, so they’re going after anything they can,” Konick said, noting that he sits on the Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals and previously was that county’s zoning administrator.

Robinson said the flagpole is a structure under the county zoning ordinance, but Konick disagreed and cited a 1913 state Supreme Court ruling that defined what a building is. “Under state Supreme Court definitions, a flagpole doesn’t meet the definition of a building or a structure, so it shouldn’t be regulated by the zoning ordinance,” Konick said.

A 50-foot flagpole was initially installed on the property in 2013 after a building permit was approved and remained there until 2016, Robinson said. The 68-foot flagpole was raised in 2017 without a building permit, and a complaint was filed. Jennings then submitted a building permit application on Feb. 16, 2017.

Vesting rights, if any, would apply only to the original flag, Robinson said, but added that vesting rights do not apply to building permits.

During public comment, Dinwiddie resident Susan Lee said the Chester flag was the first of 27 the Flaggers put up in the state.

“If you’d have left the flagpole at 50 feet, you’d be OK,” board member Graham Daniels said. “Apparently you kind of lucked out in 2013.” That was in reference to the original permit being approved by a building official and not the planning director as required.

Chester resident Barry Isenhour said community and outside pressures have affected the situation.

“When the county starts using zoning laws to diminish free speech, I become concerned,” he said. “Many Confederate veterans have unmarked graves in Chesterfield. That’s why we put the flag up in the first place. Why are you spending tax dollars on this?”

Daniels – who represents the Bermuda District where the flagpole is located – said the board doesn’t consider the content of the complaint. “They may have complained about the content … we can’t really get into that,” he said.
Board chairman John E. Caperton suggested the Flaggers apply for a variance to raise the allowable height of the flag to 68 feet.
Board member Thomas E. Bennett suggested the Flaggers reapply and put the pole farther away from the road. “I’d think it’d be looked at favorably,” he said.

Konick said he would confer with the Flaggers board regarding an appeal to circuit court. During the meeting he noted that a 212-foot-tall U.S. flag is located 2.3 miles north of the Confederate flag at Coxendale Road, I-95 and Route 288.

Robinson said the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors approved a conditional use permit for that flagpole.

Chesterfield Planning Director Andrew Gillies declined to answer questions and comment on this case.

  • Grayson R Jennings

    February 12, 2019 #1 Author

    This was a joke of a hearing that we paid $700 for for the ” privilege” to argue our case when it was obvious that the outcome was predetermined.
    Not once did the BZA members ask the planning department personnel if it was true the many points that we brought up where THEY. were in error or failed to even mention . They were making stuff up as time went by.
    And they mentioned no less than four times that this didn’t have anything to do with the type of flag.If it didn’t have anything to do with it,why bring it up all?
    Out of control government overreach that does nothing but deny citizens private property rights.
    Disgusting!

    Reply

    • Cheryl McNamara

      February 13, 2019 #2 Author

      You’re so right! This was a kangaroo court filled with Chesterfield swamp dwellers.

      Reply

  • Perry Lunsford

    February 13, 2019 #3 Author

    I hope you will sue the county because they are restricting your free speech.

    Reply

  • Tom Bolton

    February 13, 2019 #4 Author

    I agree with Mr. Jennings statement!

    Reply

  • Cheryl McNamara

    February 13, 2019 #5 Author

    Swamp people are alive and thriving in Chesterfield’s government.

    Reply

  • Dglester Hardunkichud

    February 13, 2019 #6 Author

    If government overreach denies your right to fly that embarrassing 2nd place flag, then this Chester property owner is all for it

    Reply

  • Kmg

    February 14, 2019 #7 Author

    Ohhh ABSOLUTELY this had something to do with the type of flag!!! Fight it….fight them! It’s SAD and frustrating to continually see that one particular “group” is Excluded from their heritage & History!!! Statutes coming down…..changing school names….changing street names
    Everyone is offended from crap 30…40…50 years ago!! Get over it….move on
    What if you take just the flag down? I bet NOONE would have anymore problem!! At that point, I would cement about a dozen scattered 12ft 4x4s innthe ground and put Confederate flags on Everyone of them!!
    Better yet…..how about bails of hay??? Stack them 15ft.high and 20ft long and spray paint the ENTIRE thing like a confederate flag!!! Don’t think you need a “building permit” to stack hay bails…,,tell.them its to feed your “cows” on your farm land

    Reply

  • Cousin Andy

    February 15, 2019 #8 Author

    These rednecks wouldn’t be crying “free speech” if it were Al-Qeada demanding they be allowed to fly their flag at the twin towers. It’s true that they have “unmarked graves” around the area. This is simply about alienating black people.

    Reply

  • Kenny Miller

    February 16, 2019 #9 Author

    Omg there’s another one crying about being about black people. Why can’t it be about proud of your heritage. Some people are so immature

    Reply

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