Orange County issues statement on enforcement of flag ordinance
On May 15, 2018 the Orange County Board of Commissioners, pursuant to requests from the public, adopted a content neutral flag ordinance that, among other things, restricted the size of all flags based on the zoning of the property on which they were displayed. The ordinance included a one year amortization period during which nonconforming flags must come into compliance. Now that the one year amortization period has expired County staff are receiving many inquiries about flag enforcement. The ordinance must be fairly enforced against all flags that are not in compliance with the ordinance. Since this is a new ordinance, in order to ensure full, fair, and equitable enforcement, the zoning enforcement officer must investigate all violations.
During the one year amortization period the zoning enforcement officer conducted an inventory of flags in the County’s jurisdiction and discovered as many as 20 flags may be nonconforming with the terms of the new ordinance. During this amortization period the property owners or occupants had abundant opportunities, until May 15, 2019, to either remove nonconforming flags or bring them into compliance. To determine whether those nonconforming flags have been removed or brought into compliance, the zoning enforcement officer must revisit the properties containing the inventoried flags and conduct an investigation. It is estimated this investigation process will be completed by late July of 2019. Once the investigation is complete the zoning enforcement officer will issue notices of violation to property owners or occupants whose flags are determined to be in violation of the ordinance. The property owners or occupants will have an opportunity to remedy the violation or appeal the notice of violation to the Board of Adjustment. If, after the property owner or occupant has had this additional opportunity to remedy the violation, the flag remains in violation and no appeal has been filed, the zoning enforcement officer may begin enforcement action. County staff will then seek injunctions from the courts to direct the property owners or occupants to come into compliance with the ordinance. These actions are consistent with existing enforcement provisions as detailed within Article 9, Enforcement, of the Orange County Unified Development Ordinance.
Because this is a newly enforceable ordinance the flag inventory and investigation procedure is a one-time process. All future violations will be processed just as any other zoning violation; a complaint will be filed, the issue will be investigated, and a determination will be made by the zoning enforcement officer.