Bell Tower Green Committee says no to flag, sends back to council

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 18, 2022

SALISBURY — The question of whether or not to put a permanent American flag at Bell Tower Green goes back to the city council this week after the newly formed advisory committee voted against recommending the installation.

The request to add a flag came from an informal group of veterans who asked that a flag pole and flag be added to the entrance of the park well over a year ago, just days after the park was given to the city. Their request was made to the Salisbury City Council, but the council had to follow the agreement made with Bell Tower Green Inc. when the park was given to the city.

That agreement required the formation of an advisory board that would include four members from the original park board and three members from the community at large. Once formed, any requests for changes to the park would first have to go to the advisory board, which would then deliberate and make a recommendation to council.

Mayor Karen Alexander had, as soon as the new board was formed, asked that the flag be one of the first items considered.

Bill Wagoner, who was president of the original board of directors and who is on the advisory board, said that before the most recent meeting earlier this week, when they knew they would take up the request for a flag, he did two things. He framed the question they were to consider, which is “should an American flag be displayed permanently within the boundaries of Bell Tower Green?”

And, “because we all come from very different backgrounds with varying levels of knowledge about the park — some of us are 100 percent aware of the history and some of us have zero knowledge,” he made sure all the board members were up to date on everything involved in bringing the park to fruition, from its beginnings until now. He even invited the original architects from Land Design to make a presentation to the board to explain how they came to the design.

“That way we are all starting on the same page,” he said. “There has never been a deal like this in Salisbury, ever. So we all needed to be aware of the process, including reviewing the master plan and a copy of the agreement governing the giving of the park to the city.”

By that time, Wagoner said the board was ready to tackle the question of the flag.

“And I say display because the means and method was never in question,” Wagoner said. “It’s a question of a permanent display.”

The motion made at the meeting was, he said, to add a flag to the park. After lengthy discussion in which every member of the board was invited to share their thoughts, and then to interject or interact over questions or differences, the vote was 6-1 against the motion.

Dyke Messinger, who was also part of the original BTG Inc. and is on the committee said it has come down to perspective, and he understands not everyone agrees. But he said an important thing to keep in mind is that once changes begin to be allowed, it can be hard to stop.

“Once we allow one change, others will naturally be requested, and then you begin to reach the point where the original plan and design is lost,” he said.

The council will take up the issue Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the regular meeting.

“The council will avail themselves of other input, I’m sure,” said Wagoner, “and they are not bound to follow our recommendation. The legal agreement does require that if the council does decide to do anything to the park, they cannot do it without the written approval of the Bell Tower Green Inc. If that board agrees they write a quick note saying ‘sure, go ahead.’ If they disagree, then the board and the council sit down and talk it out and work to come to some agreement.”

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