Perkins Restaurant will open in Gardner in mid-February, however whether the restaurant will be allowed to fly the largest U.S. flag manufactured on a 70-foot-high flag pole is still in question.
Gardner code allows 75-foot-tall signs, but only 45-foot-high flag poles. Perkins owners have requested a variance, but board of zoning appeals members tabled the variance request during a meeting Jan. 7. Though not in the flight path of New Century AirCenter, the flag pole will require a stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Zoning appeals board members asked for FAA approval before making a decision on granting Perkins’ variance request.
Matt Rahfaldt, vice president of operations for the restaurant, said he has made similar variance requests in eight different communities. Of those, only one community denied the variance. For example, he said in the city of Independence, Mo., the city code only allows for a 20-foot-tall flag pole. The Perkins Restaurant there was granted a variance to allow a 70-foot-tall flag pole.
“I would be shocked if they have any regret at doing so,” Rahfaldt told the members of the Gardner Board of Zoning Appeals. “This is something we are really proud to do.”
Several Gardner citizens as well as members of the local American Legion spoke on behalf of the restaurant, asking that BZA members allow the flag pole.
Clint Barney, Gardner, served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“(The flag) is a symbol of freedome and enterprise,” he told the board.
He said a large flag visible from the highway may help bring people into Gardner.
City staff recommended the BZA deny the variance request.
According to the staff report to the BZA, there are several criteria zoning board members should consider, including whether the variance is required due to unique characteristics of the property and whether the variance will negatively impact the community.
Community development director Mike Hall said board members had enough information to deny the variance request, but not enough information to approve it. He said BZA members are unable to determine whether the flag pole height would create a danger or hazard for citizens without having FAA approval.
Rahfaldt said the appropriate application had been submitted to the FAA, and that the federal organization has allowed 75-foot-tall signs in the same area. However, the FAA had not yet responded to the approval request.
“It is staff’s opinion, you can not rule in favor of the variance,” Hall said.
The board of zoning appeals is scheduled to reconsider the Perkins request at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 4 at city hall.