Orange County commissioners approve new flag ordinance after massive Confederate flag raised

HILLSBOROUGH, NC (WTVD) -- Nearly two weeks after a massive Confederate battle flag was raised in Orange County, commissioners approved a new flag ordinance.

"It's really a matter of scale. It's not a matter of freedom of speech or freedom of expression. People can still fly their 4-by-6 flags. They can still tattoo a Confederate flag on their shoulder, put a bumper sticker on their car, whatever. It's a specious argument to say it's an attack on freedom of speech or expression," said Orange County commissioner Mark Marcoplos.

Tuesday night, commissioners discussed the new rules and took public input on the issue.

Residential and commercial properties have separate regulations.

For residential properties, flags cannot exceed 24 square feet, must be set back 20 feet from the property line, and the flagpole cannot exceed 24 feet in height.

For commercial properties, flags cannot exceed 96 square feet, and flagpoles cannot exceed 54 feet in height.

"It's a modest, moderate change that protects the people of the community," Marcoplos said.

Marcoplos said the new ordinance does not target any specific expression or emblem, but acknowledged some residents reached out following the Confederate flag's placement.

"We absolutely did do this in reaction to the specific flag controversy around these huge Confederate flags. That in no way means that we wouldn't have done it in response to a giant flag, as I said last night, with a 15-foot kitten on it, if it was flying over the community, taking up space and imposing on neighbors," Marcoplos said.

Property owners will have one year to comply with the new flag guidelines.

Flagpoles that exceed the new standards will be allowed to stay in place.

Marcoplos noted the ordinance does not apply to flags that are painted onto the side of buildings, as that is considered artwork.

The ordinance also does not apply to any cities within Orange County, which are responsible for their own regulations and standards.

ABC11 reached out to county leaders in Wake and Durham to check whether they planned to review their respective ordinances.

Wake County Commissioner Chair Jessica Holmes said she is not aware of any discussion or community requests about the flag ordinance.

ABC 11 also reached out to Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, also known as ACTBAC, the group responsible for the flag in Orange County. The group has not responded at this time.
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