Judge says flagpole not a monument

The Confederate flagpole erected in Louisa County near Interstate 64 does not qualify as a monument, a judge ruled this week.

Judge Timothy Sanner’s decision in Louisa Circuit Court is an important milestone in the county government’s case against the Virginia Flaggers and landowner Gary Freix. But the case remains open; the judge has not decided whether the flagpole should be removed because it was erected without building and zoning permits.

The Flaggers had argued that the flagpole is part of a monument because there is a Confederate soldier’s grave nearby and a statue. Sanner commented in his written Aug. 27 ruling that the county code doesn’t define the word monument, but does refer separately to flagpoles.  

Much of the Aug. 21 court hearing about the flagpole focused on what was located around it when county inspectors visited on April 17, 2018, a year after the pole was erected. The Flaggers presented evidence of a statue, a wall and other items to support their contention that the flagpole is part of a monument.

The property “was composed of the preexisting graves, the flagpole in question and little more,” Sanner wrote. The statue and wall “do not appear to have been there ... Given that the terms flagpoles and monuments are both used, presumably a monument is intended to mean something other than a flagpole. Clearly, a monument could contain a flagpole … In the case before the court, however, there is no structure to the flagpole other than that normally associated with [one].”

The county says the flagpole is a structure and subject to building and zoning codes. Any structure of 30 feet or more in height requires a building permit, and there is a 60-foot height limit in the A-2 zoning district. The Confederate flagpole is about 120 feet tall.

The Flaggers’ position was that since the flagpole was part of a monument, it was not a structure and exempt from the zoning code as it read at the time the pole was raised in March 2017. Sanner’s ruling upholds the decision of the Louisa County Board of Zoning Appeals in July 2018 that the flagpole is not a monument and not entitled to an exception from the 60-foot height limit.

A date has not been set for the next hearing in the court case.

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