Friday, October 3, 2003

Wavy flag leads to lawsuit


West Chester Township tells store it's violation of zoning code

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Township officials were quick to gripe earlier this year when the Ohio Department of Transportation declared some of their "Welcome to West Chester" signs illegal.

"It's ridiculous. Do the people working for ODOT have nothing else to do?" Trustee Catherine Stoker said in June.

Now, officials with Tire Discounters are asking themselves the same thing about West Chester.

On Thursday, West Chester sued the tire chain for allegedly violating the zoning code on the store's new Ohio 747 location near Union Centre Boulevard.

Waves of red, white and blue paint circle the top of the building, like nearly all the 34 other Tire Discounters stores in Greater Cincinnati. The West Chester store, though, also has stars and stripes replicating the U.S. flag.

"It was nice to have the flag border in honor of our troops," said Jane McTaggart, the store's attorney.

But the township's suit claims the waves violate West Chester's zoning code. The suit demands the store remove them and replace them with a neutral paint. Or, the township wants a judge to shut the business down until it complies with the code.

McTaggart contends the store is entitled to display a replica of the flag, noting that the township's zoning code even has an exception for the flag.

"I think any judge is just going to be amazed to have time wasted with this," she said. "I don't know why they are playing such hardball."

The store has offered to apply beige paint over the waves so the facade complies with development plans calling for a neutral one, McTaggart said. But township zoning officials have told her that's not good enough, she added.

That means the store would have to go back through the zoning approval process and pay the $250 application fee, she complained.

Township officials deny that, saying store operators have been unresponsive to the problem, have offered only to paint a red stripe around the building and must comply with zoning codes.

"It's not a flag; it's more of a bumper sticker design," said Brian Elliff, the township's planning and zoning director.

Plans that Tire Discounters originally showed the township "did not show the kind of circus-type fa┴ade they now present," he said.

"We have worked hard to ensure the buildings are of high quality so everybody's property values are enhanced," he said. "When you have this kind of deviation, that harms everybody."

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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