Tribute or nuisance? Florida dealer, town officials clash over flag proposal
Earl Stewart wants to install the world's tallest American flagpole
The U.S. flag has inspired some well known works, such as Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Joe Rosenthal's photograph of five U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
Now it's inspiring a Florida Toyota dealer's tribute to 9/11 first responders.
Earl Stewart, owner of Earl Stewart Toyota of North Palm Beach in Lake Park, Fla., plans to fly a 30-by-50-foot U.S. flag on a 343-foot flagpole -- which would be the nation's tallest -- at the dealership. That height was chosen because 343 New York City firefighters died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The tallest U.S. flagpole now stands 242 feet in Gadsden, Ala., according to the nonprofit National Flag Foundation.
Stu Stewart, Earl Stewart's son and the dealership's general manager, said his father wanted to do something "that's dramatic, something profound" to honor the first responders.
Earl Stewart was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Still, the plan is stirring debate in the small waterfront town of 8,100 in Palm Beach County as some residents have expressed concern that the flag may be a nuisance, Stu Stewart said.
The Lake Park Town Commission rejected the dealership's proposal for the flagpole, instead giving the Stewarts permission to install a flagpole with a maximum height of 50 feet and a flag no larger than 15 feet by 30 feet.
Commission representatives could not be reached for comment.
Stu Stewart said the dealership was disappointed with the commission's action. He said it didn't make sense for the commission to rebuff the plan because the massive flagpole would draw visitors and business into the community.
"The fight isn't over," Stewart said. Earl Stewart "is going to put this pole up."
Stewart said that his father plans to look to other nearby municipalities for someplace else to erect the flagpole. He said the commission told the dealership that it could submit another proposal for the tribute.
Stewart's fight could take a while. Nearby communities include the ultra-swanky island of Palm Beach (Donald Trump's home), Jupiter and Jupiter Island, all known for exceptionally restrictive limits on signage and other public displays.
Said Stewart of his father: "When he gets his mind set on something, it becomes sort of a crusade for him."
You can reach Joseph Lichterman at email@example.com.