STATESVILLE, N.C. — The massive American flag flying over Statesville most likely will not be coming down anytime soon.
The city of Statesville said in a news release Wednesday that its leaders will consider changing an ordinance regulating the size of flags displayed in a highway business zone.
The statement came after Marcus Lemonis said he would go to jail before he removes a huge American flag flying at a recreational vehicle store his company owns. The city has sued the company because the flag is much larger than what its ordinance allows.
Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh says the change, if approved, would allow the flag at Gander RV off Interstate 77 to continue flying.
But Lemonis wants no restrictions on the size of American flags as long as the poles and flags aren't a safety hazard for air travel or people.
"I want the City of Statesville to acknowledge that unless it impairs safety, wellness or health, there is no restriction on the size of a flag, an American flag, being flown in Statesville. That’s all I want from them," Lemonis said Thursday afternoon as he was flying to Statesville.
The city has fined Gander RV $50 a day for each day the flag remains up, which is about $11,000. The 40x80-foot U.S. flag is almost double the size allowed by the current city ordinance.
The change is expected to pass July 15 at the city council meeting.
Lemonis is a businessman and star of CNBC's reality television show "The Profit."
He said amending the ordinance is not enough.
"I think they’re trying to react, and I appreciate that and I respect that. But I want them to solve the problem for every business in Statesville, not just our business," Lemonis said.
“In speaking with city council members, I believe this is the direction the majority of council would like to go at this time. Some terrible things have been said about our wonderful town,” Mayor Costi Kutteh said in a news release Wednesday. "And it hasn’t come from our citizens. But people from all over the country have jumped on this issue and called us names I can’t repeat. When our community’s efforts to conduct business in an orderly, lawful manner begins to hurt our businesses, then it’s time to put a stop to it.”
The mayor said he was disappointed Lemonis didn't contact the city.
Later Wednesday, Lemonis tweeted that city officials were missing the point.
“The state code is clear as to no restriction of size unless it impairs the health, safety or wellness of the people,” Lemonis tweeted. “This isn’t about (Camping World) or (Gander RV). Amend the code to remove the size restrictions for all businesses, not just mine.”
Lemonis said Wednesday that he would go to jail before he'd remove the enormous flag.
"I would prefer not to (go to jail)," he said. "It's not a super-favorable outcome. But that's how big a line in the sand this is for me."
Lemonis will be in Statesville Thursday to support the flag. He said he invited the mayor and council council members to meet with him.
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