10/4/13. City Demands Residents Remove ‘God Bless America’ Signs From Their Front Yards. Billy Hallowell, Theblaze.
“Residents in Bartow, Fla., have been asked (or ordered, depending on whom you speak with) to remove “God bless America” signs from their lawns.
The crack-down on private property may seem uncommon or targeted, but a city ordinance that limits the presence of signage on private property has been on the books for the past 13 years.
While residents are allowed to have temporary messages up only around certain holidays, there is an expiration date surrounding just how long billboards and posters can remain on display.
The “God bless America” signs at the center of the first debate were originally handed out by First Church of Bartow, a local house of worship, to commemorate the July 4th holiday.
TheBlaze called the church and spoke with a representative who told us that someone made the signs and left them out for parishioners to take and use back in June.
Now, three months later, the city believes that some of the 300 placards that were distributed and posted have overstayed their welcome, WTVT-TV reports.
The City of Bartow Code Enforcement asked residents to remove the messages within the next three days, as July 4th celebrations are long past.
While WTVT-TV reports that residents will be hit with a $25 per day fine if they fail to remove the sign, Bartow Code Enforcement Director Gregg Lamb told TheBlaze that financial penalties were never threatened and that his office does not have the right to enforce them.
“We were just hoping for some cooperation and understanding about the ordinance,” he said of requests made to the 20 to 25 families that still have the sign on their lawns.
Lamb also made an important point that he says was lost in local media reports: The “God bless America” message had absolutely nothing to do with the crack-down. Even if it was a for sale sign for a vehicle, the same rules would apply, he told TheBlaze.
Regardless of the motivation, the regulation has some locals so outraged that they plan to attend the Bartow City Commission meeting on Monday to request an exemption that would allow them to continue displaying the signs.
Lamb said that if residents want to change the rules governing messaging on private property, then they can do so through the ordinance process. The current regulation, he said, was created to “keep communities and neighborhoods from being cluttered from all sorts of messages.”
“If they want to make an ordinance to allow a particular type of sign, then they need to change that by ordinance,” said Lamb.
Some of the residents do appear ready to fight for the right to display whatever they’d like in their front yards.
“I personally feel if it were on a city right-of-way, they would have a right to remove it,” resident Emmett Purvis told WTVT-TV. “But this is my yard that I’m paying the taxes on. It’s my right.”
Others agree. Marcus Seger, a veteran, said that he felt as though he was “kicked in the gut” when he heard that regulation would be enforced.
Some residents plan to keep their signs on their lawns to show that patriotism has no expiration date.”