Council to reconsider ordinance

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The Denton City Council plans to revisit the city’s sign ordinance as it relates to the display of the U.S. flag, after Andre “Frenchy” Rheault got a ticket Thursday for displaying too many flags at his storage yard on Dallas Drive.

In announcing the topic for the council’s work session Tuesday afternoon,

Mayor Chris Watts said he thought it was good that the issue was on the agenda less than a week after it emerged.

He said he had not seen anything like this issue during the three terms he served previously on the City Council.

“Part of good government is responsive government,” Watts said.

The city cited Rheault under the part of the city’s property maintenance code that allows a property owner to display up to three flags without a permit, including the U.S. and Texas flags and another flag of the property owner’s choice.

After that, the property owner has to get a permit to fly “wind devices.”

Rheault parks his lawn and tree service vans in a storage yard in the 1000 block of Dallas Drive.

He has about a dozen poles with U.S. flags mounted to the security fence at the front of the yard.

A larger flag also flies on a pole high above the embroidery shop next to the yard, its roof painted with an image of the flag.

Many of the service vans are bedecked with flags, too.

Council member Greg Johnson said he thought the furor over the ticket was a bit unfair to the city staff, who were enforcing the ordinance that was on the books and pursuing a city initiative to clean up other problems along Dallas Drive.

Two other businesses along Dallas Drive received a warning from the city about their flags and subsequently took them down, staff said.

But Rheault vowed to fight the ticket, receiving a lot of media attention for his stance and triggering a public outcry.

Council members John Ryan and Jim Engelbrecht, both veterans, asked that the staff post information on the city’s website with the official state and federal codes for displaying the state and U.S. flags.

While those codes are advisory, many people consider them “best practices” for displaying the flag, according to Brian Lockley, city planning director.

The council also asked that the residents be polled for their thoughts on how flag displays should be regulated in Denton.

Watts said he thought the council could trust residents to come up with community standards that respected both the iconic status of the U.S. flag and the way people want to fly it.

“If it gets way out, I think we’ll hear from the community,” Watts said.

Council member Joey Hawkins asked what would become of the current citations, given the change that was likely coming to the property maintenance code.

City Attorney Anita Burgess said the prosecutors are independent, but would be made aware of the council’s discussion.

Lockley told the council he thought the matter could be back in front of the council in 60 days.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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