Balloon-Flying Business Faces $3,200 in Fines

A former rug shop owner is facing a $3,200 fine for flying a balloon in front of his 29N business, Lisa Provence writes in The Hook. Mahmood Pasha’s Rug Depot was located across from Wal-Mart—you’ll remember the rugs often hanging out front on a rack—and he promoted his going out of business sale by flying a red, oversized helium balloon in front of his shop, about eighty feet in the air, with the string festooned with small flags.

Section 4.15.7 of the county code prohibits a bunch of types of signs “with characteristics that create a safety hazard or are contrary to the general welfare,” including “a sign that is a moored balloon or other type of tethered floating sign.” (Other prohibited signs include strobe lights, signs that make noise, those on public property, and those that obstruct vision. The logic in balloons is that a large balloon, once it loses a bit of helium or it’s hit by some wind, would bobble right down onto 29N.) The county notified him that he needed to stop, and that he’d be fined $200, but that he could appeal the order. Pasha ignored the notice, and did not appeal. The county checked again on November 21, three weeks later, he still had the balloon up. And again on December 2, January 9, January 21, February 6, and February 17—Pasha kept the balloon up. Now that he’s gone out of business, he’s unhappy about the $3,200 in fines that he’s racked up, and he’s going to court over it.

There’s a history of disagreements between libertarian-minded business owners on 29N, who figure they can put up any sign on their property that they want, and the county, who has some pretty specific restrictions in order to keep Charlottesville from looking like Las Vegas.

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