The Stafford County Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance to remove monuments and flag poles from the list of structures exempt from height limitations in the county’s code.
The move comes after an 80-foot-flag pole along Interstate 95, and a Confederate battle flag the flew atop it, sparked years of debate in the region about whether or not to remove the pole and flag. Last month, the Virginia Department of Transportation acquired the private property on which the flag pole sits, along with nine other parcels of land, and removed the flag pole.
The Stafford County Board of Supervisors passed the new ordinance passed by a five to two vote on Tuesday, November 17, approving recommendations from the county’s Planning Commission, which suggested flagpoles and monuments are not to exceed 35 feet in height in residential and agricultural areas, or 45 feet in commercial and industrial zoned districts. However, those heights could be exceeded by no more than 10 feet by special exemption or conditional use permits.
Stafford residents who showed up to the meeting supported the new ordinance.
“If it wasn’t one flag then it would be another flag that the other half of the county would be upset about and I think this is the best thing for us and it makes sense to pass this so that everyone would not be as much at war with each other, I think we have enough going on right now in the world,” one county resident commented.
The new heights considered for flagpoles have been discussed as far back as 2017 when then-Stafford County Attorney Charles Shumate stated the Board of Supervisors could limit flag pole heights on private property. Any flag standing before a new ordinance passed would most likely be grandfathered in, he added.
Aquia District Supervisor Cindy Shelton expressed concern with the ordinance feeling that discussion about the flagpoles was muddled with the issues of the Confederate flag.
Rock Hill District Supervisor Crystal Vanuch expressed concern about the ordinance’s unintended consequences, specifically about new broadband services coming to the Hartwood and Rock Hill districts that would be attached to tall towers. Vanuch mentioned that the limitations on flag poles could also limit the reach of the new broadband service.
George Washington District Supervisor Tom Coen supported the ordinance stating similar concerns as the residents did about the flag while paraphrasing Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stating “ the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
Rick Horner is a freelance general assignment reporter and covers the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and Fredericksburg City Council. Please email news tips and questions.