A debate over inflatable snowmen at a couple of Christmas tree lots has surfaced in the City of Lenoir.
Large inflatable snowmen, nicknamed “Frosty” by their respective owners, are used to tout the businesses at tree lots for Mountain Top Fraser Fir and Roten Brothers Tree Farms. But city official have told both owners that the very recognizable inflatable figures have to come down.
Lenoir Code Enforcement Officer Nathan Rhue informed the tree lot operators earlier this week that the giant snowmen used to attract business to the lots will have to be deflated. Rhue said both were in violation of the city’s temporary banner ordinance that allows one flag, sign, streamer, balloon, etc., up to 32 square feet to be used to promote such endeavors.
“Both exceed the size limits for the city’s temporary banner ordinance,” Rhue explained.
Avery County’s Larry Smith, who operates Mountain Top Fraser Fir at the corner of Morganton Boulevard and Mulberry Street, thought there may a be a right-of-way issue at first and indicated if his snowman was in violation, then he felt other businesses along the highway would be as well. When he was informed that it was a violation of a city ordinance, he still was not happy.
“I didn’t know if it was a right-of-way issue or an ordinance issue at first,” Smith said. “I’m just a farmer trying to make a living, and people like to see that Frosty.”
Rhue said the penalty for violating the temporary banner ordinance is a $50 fine per day, which he told Smith and J.C. and Frances Woods, the operators of the Roten Tree Farm lot in the corner of the parking area of CrossRoad Shopping Center where Morganton Boulevard intersects Harper Avenue.
“We’re very disappointed about it, but we’re not blaming anyone,” said Frances Woods, who comes to Lenoir from Ashe County top operate the lot with her husband. “We were told there was an ordinance that said it was too big.”
The Woods have taken down their snowman, also called Frosty, on what they refer to as “Frosty’s Corner.”
“We’ll abide by whatever rules they have; we don’t want to make any trouble,” Frances Woods said. “It’s very disappointing, though. We’ve had it up the last two years.”
J.C. Woods added, “It’s just a temporary thing. I really don’t think it will affect anything, but that’s just my way of looking at it. We take it down at the end of the day anyway.”
Smith has no intention of taking down his snowman. He indicated he will pay the fines imposed by the city each day to keep his means of advertising his trees fully inflated.
“I’m going to leave it up,” he said. “I’ll pay the $50 fine. If they’re going to fine me, then they need to fine me. If I need to get kids out here to march around Frosty, I’ll do it, but I’m not taking it down.”
Rhue said the city can not take the inflatable down; it is not posing a right-of-way issue, and it is not a public nuisance. But, he again stressed that civil penalties associated with violation of the ordinance will be imposed.
“There’s no recourse as far as abating it; we can’t take it,” Rhue explained. “We prefer that he not leave it up, but we don’t have the authority to take it down right now.”