The City of Statesville filed a complaint against an RV dealer on May 7 for having a flag larger than city ordinances allow waving in view of Interstate 77.
The complaint is against Holiday Kamper Co., parent company of Gander RV which was previously known as Camping World RV Sales. Gander RV is within Statesville city limits on Morland Drive. A 40-by-80-foot American flag announces the business’s presence off of I-77.
Statesville’s ordinances only allow a 25-by-40-foot flag.
According to the complaint filed by city attorney Leah Messick, the city gave Gander RV a citation for Camping World on Oct. 15. Failing to remove the flag resulted in a $50 fine per day. Gander RV has not complied to the ordinance or paid their fines. As of Wednesday, the amount of fines totaled $10,950.
“The complaint asks the court to order Gander RV to comply with the ordinance,” a statement from Statesville reads. “Gander RV has 30 days to respond to the complaint.”
Saturday, Gander Outdoors posted an announcement of the lawsuit on Facebook.
“Many cities like Statesville have requested that Camping World and Gander Outdoors take down their American Flags. WE WON'T DO IT! Stand with us,” the post reads. “This is about more than just the flag. This is about our Veterans, Military, and the men and women that have sacrificed for this great country. They are the reason we fly the flag and they are the reason we will NOT take it down!”
The post included a link to a petition on change.org to let Gander RV fly the 80-by-40-foot flag. As of Wednesday, more than 144,000 people have signed the petition.
Iredell County resident Junetta Dlugokecki said Gander RV’s flag is not just about patriotism but about marketing as well.
“It’s nothing but a political stunt to get people into their store,” Dlugokecki said.
She said she thought such an eye-catching flag was a hazard on I-77. One day when she was driving by Gander RV on the interstate, she swerved into the other lane when the wind caught the flag and flickered in the corner of her eye.
“That thing (Gander RV’s flag) is a hazard,” Dlugokecki said. “It’s an obnoxious hazard.”
In an interview with the Statesville Record & Landmark, Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, who is also featured on NBC’s reality show “The Profit,” said careful consideration is put into the risks of raising such a large size.
“I’m waiting for a written explanation from the city of how the flag puts citizens of Statesville in danger,” Lemonis said.
Lemonis also said Camping World and Gander Outdoors do not use the flag for promotion. He would like to see proof of the flag being a cornerstone of the organizations’ marketing strategy in its advertisements.
Lemonis also discussed the consequences if the court orders the flag to come down.
“I could go to jail if the flag stays up,” Lemonis said. “The flag isn’t coming down. Period. Even if people have to bring me my lunch in jail.”
Gander RV’s flag and Statesville City Council
The conflict between Gander RV and Statesville has dragged on for years.
Camping World asked to fly a 40-by-80-foot flag late 2017. Mayor Costi Kutteh broke a 4-4 vote in favor of keeping the maximum flag size at 8-by-12 feet.
Lemonis criticized Statesville’s flag ordinance to his 1.3 million Twitter followers. Camping World began installing the large flags at its dealerships in 2014.
The flag rules returned to council’s agenda May 21 after John Staford learned that Councilman William Morgan changed his mind and now favored a larger flag size.
After another vote, the ordinance was changed to allow a maximum flag size of 25-by-40 feet on a 130-foot pole on commercial tracts with at least 100 feet of frontage along the interstates.
The flag returned to council’s agenda in October. Council voted 5-to-3 to keep an ordinance that limits flags in the city to 25-by-40 feet after Camping World installed a 40-by-80-foot flag in August.
“Flag isn’t coming down,” Lemonis tweeted after the motion failed.
The new ordinance matches the size of a flag at a Randy Marion dealership off I-40 in Statesville. The dealership’s flag was grandfathered because it was already in place when the city adopted the 8-by-12 flag size.