A Chelmsford business was ordered by local government officials to remove 200 American flags placed on its property in an effort to honor America’s veterans for Memorial Day. The very last thing the business owners expected was demands for their removal.
Laer Realty places the display of 200 flags every year around Memorial Day and leaves them up through Independence Day on July 4. However, this is the first year they have received a complaint. Employee Jon Crandall says the last thing they expected when the display went up this year was the unpatriotic notice from the town’s building department citing them for a flag violation for excessive flags and a demand that they take them down.
Crandall stated: “On Saturday we came out and we lined this with 200 flags in support of our deceased veterans and all the people who have served. This is excessive?” the sales broker asked, pointing to the hundreds of American flags planted in the ground. “Can you have an excessive amount of American flags?”
That’s what the town told the local business, which places flags at the side of the busy intersection each year from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July.
When he reported for work on Friday as normal, Crandall states there was a sign bylaw violation notice posted to the door threatening the business with a violation by the town which cited a statute saying flags cannot be used for “commercial promotion.”
Building Commissioner Mark Dupell wrote on the notice: “Excessive flags — you may display a reasonable amount.”
Michael McCall, Chelmsford’s Assistant Town Manager, stated of the citation – “This is a commercial establishment located at a busy intersection. It was in the front lawn of that particular property, and in the opinion of our code enforcement officer, the building commissioner, it was a violation.”
Rather than remove the American flags per the demand from town officials, Laer Realty doubled down on their patriotic display adding an additional 300 flags to the display with the plan to leave them up through Independence Day as per their normal practice.
“That seems so anti-American,” Crandall said about the town’s notice. Crandall stated of their act of civil disobedience: “We feel this is a patriotic act. It’s not about our business. It’s about supporting our troops, supporting veterans. I think the flags speak for themselves. I don’t think we need to get into a fight with city hall. We’re gonna keep adding now,” he stated, as realtors gathered together to place more flags down.
Before receiving the notice violation, they had planted about 200 American flags, Crandall estimated. By the end of Friday morning, about 400 American flags were in front of the business.
“Now we’re doubling down on patriotism,” Crandall said. Stacey Alcorn, Laer Realty’s CEO, decided to “dig our heels in” when she heard of the town’s order.
Faith Murphy, an agent at LAER, called the town’s response “insulting.”
“Of all things to call excessive, an American flag is not the one,” she said. “This is just showing we’re patriotic and we’re one.”
Not only did the town of Chelmsford and its government officials get a defiant response from Laer Realty, it seems many of the town residents agreed with Laer Realty’s rebellious act and began showing their support by adding flags of their own tripling the original amount.
The town government not only got a defiant response from Laer Reality, but residents showed their support by adding flags of their own, tripling the original amount. Emelie Primeau was one of the residents who was upset by the citation, stating – “I went to the store and I bought some flags because I believe in what they’re doing.”
Crandall stated on Fox & Friends on Sunday: “It was beautiful, but it certainly was not excessive. I don’t think you could have 2,000 out there and it would look excessive.”
Alcorn pointed out how the display has “grown significantly” because of the community coming out to support the message they are sending. She stated – “This had nothing to do with our business. It was us as a community just honoring our veterans and those who serve for us. Whether they fine or don’t fine us, those flags are staying up, at least through Flag Day and the Fourth of July.”
The Lowell Sun reports of the town official’s response to this act of defiance, stating:
“Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen said the building commissioner’s job is to enforce the code of the community voted by Town Meeting, and that’s exactly what he did in this situation, according to Cohen. It appears that all those American flags is an excessive amount, violating the town zoning bylaw, he said.
A town zoning bylaw addresses the use of flags with commercial promotion, the town manager said.
‘When you blanket the whole front of a property, that would be considered a commercial promotion, and flags are not to be displayed in connection with commercial promotion,’ Cohen said.
The hundreds of flags could be distracting at the busy intersection, he added.
‘It becomes a safety concern at that tough intersection,’ Cohen said.
The town didn’t request that the business remove all the flags, but to reduce it to an appropriate number, according to the town manager.
“We’re not anti-American flag. That’s not what this is about,” Cohen said. “It’s about the commercial promotion and safety distraction at a busy intersection.”