Patty Sparks sings the national anthem while in the Air Force Band. CONTRIBUTED

Patty Sparks’ favorite song is the national anthem. She sang it more than 1,000 times over her six years of military service. In fact, her love of the anthem made her to want to build a flagpole in front of her business, but because of the semantics of the Village of Islamorada’s code, she’s only singing the blues.

Sparks and her husband, Sammy, have been trying to put a flagpole in front of their business, St Sparks Construction Inc., for some time. But the business fronts U.S.1 and the pole they want is considered a structure by village code, and must be 20 feet back from the road. 20 feet back puts the flagpole right in the middle of their business. 

As a veteran, Sparks said the American flag and national anthem are special to her. Sparks joined the Air Force in 1983, where she served as a photojournalist stationed in Korea, as a chief of community relations, and as a member of the Air Force band. “I made a cassette tape with three songs and would you believe I was the first person in band history to be hired via a cassette tape rather than a grueling audition?” said Sparks.

The Sparkses submitted their permit application back in early spring. It failed planning and structural reviews for a few reasons. 

Aside from clerical issues, the village’s code requires at least a 20-foot front yard setback for structures fronting U.S.1. The flagpole the Sparks want to build falls within the required 20 feet. The couple also needed to provide design information that proves the pole can withstand 180-mph winds.

After reviewing the code, the Sparkses disagreed with the village’s interpretation that flag poles are to be treated as structures. The Sparkses also argue that other U.S.1-fronting properties in the village have flagpoles installed within the setback. It should be noted that flagpoles erected before the Village’s charter are considered conforming. 

Now if the Sparks want a flag, they have two options – spend $2,500 to apply for a variance to build the flagpole, with no guarantee it would be approved, or build it on the side of their building, said Mrs. Sparks.  The Sparks are adamant about displaying the American Flag in front of their business, however.

“Nowhere in the village code, that I have read, does it refer to a flagpole as a structure. It does say that a permit is required to build a flagpole per Florida Building Code, but nowhere in the Florida Building Code does it refer to a flagpole as a structure,” said Mrs. Sparks.

According to interm Planning Director Joseph Corradino, variances must meet the hardship criteria set forth in the village code for approval. “The entire building code is applied to flag pole construction. Particularly wind load and structural sections,” said Corradino.

The Sparkses are currently weighing their options.

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