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Firm is floored by flag flap

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Kody Sorenson stands outside his flooring business, Big Bob's Floor Covering. There are 10 American flags on the roof of his business.

Kody Sorenson stands outside his flooring business, Big Bob’s Floor Covering. There are 10 American flags on the roof of his business.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

A battle of patriotism vs. commercialism is brewing in Sandy.

The city issued Kody Sorenson, owner of Big Bob's Flooring Outlet, a citation in early May for violating the city's signage ordinance by flying too many American flags.

Assistant community development director Nick Duerksen said his office began receiving anonymous complaints in April of Sorenson's flag display on top of his business, 9127 S. 255 West.

"They were saying the American flag was being used as a marketing tool rather than simply flying the colors," Duerksen said.

But Sorenson, who's taking the city to court over the flag flap, strongly disagrees.

"They're dead wrong," he said. "I'm advertising nothing. I'm just showing my patriotism. It offends me that they say it's a publicity stunt."

Sorenson contacted media Tuesday about his dispute with the city and spent Wednesday fielding phone calls from reporters, friends and supporters.

There are 10 American flags on the roof of his business. The law allows only one flag unless prior approval is received from the Planning Commission, Duerksen said. The law also prohibits displaying the American flag for marketing purposes.

Sorenson said it was always his intention to fly an American flag over his business when he opened two years ago. But it was around one-tenth the cost to buy a number of smaller flags rather than one huge one, he said.

Flags fall under city, state and federal signage ordinances. In Sorenson's case, Duerksen said there are questions about both the number of flags being flown and the types of flag, which in this case is the American flag.

"We want to make sure the American flag is not being used for marketing purposes," he said.

City code enforcement officers make the distinction between patriotism and commercialism.

Ryan Mecham, Sandy spokesman, did not know how code enforcement officers determined that Sorenson was flying the flag for marketing rather than patriotism. "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever," he said. "The display that he has is more to draw attention to his building and his business."

The citation requires Sorenson to remove his flags with monetary penalty.

The city says it has tried to contact Sorenson on several occasions to come down and talk to them and make the proper applications for his flag display.

"For us that is really the disheartening part. We just want him to come in and talk to us," Duerksen said.

Sorenson said he has tried to contact the city, which he said has "been a total pain in the butt" ever since he put his display up.

He said he obtained all the proper permits he needed for all his other business signs but did not realize he needed special permits for his flags, something he called a "ludicrous and asinine" rule.

"All it is to them is a power push. A lot of pencil-necked prima donnas that work at Sandy to come up with (these rules)," he said. "I'm not selling flags; I'm selling carpet. If I wanted advertising I'd put up flags with my store name and phone number."

Now Sorenson said he's ready to face city officials in justice court June 21.

"They picked a fight. They picked a scab on the wound," he said.

Contributing: Kersten Swinyard.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com