COEUR d'ALENE - If a rule's not followed or enforced, is it really a rule?
And if the mostly ignored rule could also be viewed as, say, slightly unpatriotic, wouldn't it be best to get it off the books, ASAP?
Apparently so, according to the city of Coeur d'Alene, which is considering amending its building code to wipe away the $72 residential flagpole fee.
The fee is exactly what it sounds like.
Residents who want to put a flagpole in front of their homes should pay the city $47 for a permit to do so, plus $25 for a site review.
"My God," Coeur d'Alene resident Doug Shevalier said when he learned of the little-known rule recently. "What city in the U.S. would tell a veteran or any homeowner they can't fly a flag without paying?"
Shevalier, who served in the Army, put a brand new 16-foot pole, topped with the Stars and Stripes, in front of his Landings at Waterford home earlier this year after he received it as a Christmas gift from his kids.
He didn't pay the fee though, unaware of the rule at the time. He only learned of the rule when a fellow subdivision resident told Shevalier, who sits on the neighborhood's architectural control committee. In fact, Shevalier has approved tons of flagpoles neighbors have brought to the neighborhood board for review over the years.
"I had no idea," he said.
Shevalier still doesn't plan on paying his fee either, and approached the city about the rule.
Now, everyone could be off the hook, as the city's Public Works Committee is recommending the city do away with it.
"There's all this weird stuff tucked in there," said Woody McEvers, City Councilman, on the rules and regulations of building codes in general, namely the flagpole permit. "Let's make some adjustments,"
The flagpole permitcame from the International Residential Code, which was adopted by the state as the codes to use, according to Ted Lantzy, senior buildinginspector for Coeur d'Alene. Most municipalities, likewise, adopted the state's rules.
As for local enforcement?
"We have never issued any stop works or done enforcement on flag poles," Lantzy said, adding he can remember around three residential permits issued in the last 10 years.
Commercial flagpole permits are different, he said, as builders usually adhere to them as those projects are to a much larger scale and require an engineer's review to be properly installed.
If the city did away with the residential permit, it would expect little to no financial impact from the change, staff reports state.
Another route the city is considering is amending the building code at the state level so it's uniform across Idaho. Not every city adopted the flagpole permit portion of the rule though, the city of Hayden being one example.
The allowed height for a flag pole is limited by the maximum height allowed for a building in the particular zone, so in a typical residential district, it's around 32 feet.
The intent of the permit is to ensure the flagpole is sturdy and doesn't fall over and cause damage, something that Shevalier said is unlikely in residential areas where the poles are typically up to 18 feet, and often made out of aluminum. He said he's optimistic the city will change the rule, with which the advisory panel PWC agreed.
The topic will go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room of the public library.
"Politicians love this kind of stuff," said City Councilman Dan Gookin, who favors erasing it.
Patriotic topics, like the American flag atop a flagpole where there's a fee, tend to bring out passionate speeches from politicians, he said.
"If it was anything else besides a flag, nobody would care," Gookin said. "But this is the flag. All the sudden it's a patriotic issue. We could have Bill O'Reilly coming here and saying, 'Why doesn't Coeur d'Alene allow flags?'"