Restauranteur Says He’s Suing Over Sign Ordinance

Tom Slonaker, the owner of the Arby’s at Forest Lakes, says he’s suing Albemarle County for “discriminatory” enforcement of sign ordinances, Tasha Kates writes in today’s Daily Progress. Slonaker has sought for years to evade the county’s zoning restrictions on how garish the signage for a business can be, and is continually caught and cited for violating the sign ordinance. (In 2003 he had an advertisement fashioned into a flag, and when caught for that, he claimed that the county was anti-flag, hoping to win popular opinion by impugning their patriotism.) Slonaker doesn’t intend to sue over the appropriateness or constitutionality of the laws, but rather because he believes that his business is being targeted while others are allowed to violate the same standards.

27 Responses to “Restauranteur Says He’s Suing Over Sign Ordinance”

  • Zoning and architectural control boards are often just like high school cliques in that they will behave one way to someone they like and another way to someone they don’t. Happens every day. Having said that, the anti-flag tact this guy already tried sure makes it sound like he’s quite the dweeb. But court sounds like the right place for this. If he has well documented evidence of very similar things allowed, then he should win. If not, he’s a complete schmuck. Should be interesting to follow. Well, OK, interesting like watching grass grow is interesting.

  • I’d stop eating in his restaurant. If I ever ate in his restaurant.

  • Mr. Tiger:

    I heard Mr. Slonaker on The Schilling Show, on WINA, last week. If there’s selective enforcement going on (which I wasn’t convinced of), maybe it’s just because this guy is *such* a jerk.

  • It does not matter if he’s a dweeb, a jerk or any other colorful metaphor. If he’s got the proof, he will prevail. If he does. It’s too bad that the county code enforcers who have been selectively enforcing the code can’t be held responsible for paying the legal costs. It falls upon all us tax payers to pay the bill. To me, that just seems unfair to all of us.

  • The TV news showed a couple of large signs on the exterior of nearby buildings that obviously have not been cited, they’ve been there a long time. He was cited for signs on the INSIDE of his building that could be seen through the window. Also, to keep cars one night from driving over some wet cement in HIS parking lot, he blocked the entrance and exit with two company vehicles with signs on the sides. Why? The could be seen from the highway. There are probably 10,000 vehicles daily on 29N with signs on the sides ON the highway so what’s the problem? Absolutely studpid laws enforced sporadically by stupid people (one of whom I’m actually fond of).

  • Voice of reality

    It’s a fact that the enforcement in both the city and county is often entirely random, and their decisions whether to pursue a case or not are sometimes based on the zoning inspector’s dislike for either the person reporting the violation, or the violator. I’ve been told many times by the zoning inspectors that they don’t go out looking for violations. They could drive by a violation every day for years (a yard full of junked cars and leaking oil barrels, for instance) and not do anything about it simply because no one had ever lodged a formal complaint.

    So, if that’s been the case here, and there’s demonstrable proof, then I hope this suit causes them to clean up their act and treat everyone equitably. Having said that though, why oh WHY, couldn’t this case have been brought by one of the many nicer people the county has targeted unfairly? That whole flag thing was a ridiculous game of “gotcha” and makes him look like an utter douche. I don’t buy sammies from douches.

  • Hawkins Dale
    Jun 7th, 2009 at 9:18 pm
    Mr. Tiger:
    “I heard Mr. Slonaker on The Schilling Show, on WINA, last week. If there’s selective enforcement going on (which I wasn’t convinced of), maybe it’s just because this guy is *such* a jerk.”

    He’s “*such* a jerk” so it’s great if people use local ordinances to screw the guy? This cville community is a starting to look and feel very NAZI.

  • Majunga and VOD, you know a lot of people here are driven for action and deed here by “who” as opposed to “what.”

  • What’s up with all these people calling the guy a “jerk”? He’s certainly a taxpayer, paying more taxes than anybody posting here most likely, and has the right to ask the court to review the matter. If anybody here still has a problem with any of this, I am almost sure Slonaker will refund the nickel of your tax money that might be spent by the county defending their actions during his case. If he prevails in his claims against the county, I hope the court awards him his attorney fees in full. A few thousand dollars tossed in as punitive damages against the county might go a long way too.

  • Voice of reality

    Demo– I don’t believe anyone here is specifically saying that the guy shouldn’t prevail if he’s correct that there’s been a demonstrable pattern of discriminative behavior against him. I’m pretty sure people are saying he’s a jerk for other reasons, like, for instance, passive-aggressively hiding behind the US flag. Playing cat-n-mouse with the sign ordinance, instead of manning up, shows a distinct lack of… sumthin’.

    By the way, a word in your ear– just because Slonaker *may* pay more taxes than apparently you do, that doesn’t make him any more worthy of our respect, nor should it enable him to get more remedy under the law.

  • Since political signs are allowed in Albemarle County, I think the man ought to get a large Arby’s sign and write in 6″ letters across the bottome “We Support Tom Perriello.” Nobody would cite him then. To me, a flag is a flag and a sign is a sign.

  • Well, Voice… we’ll just have to disagree there. Slonaker has my respect. Moreso than somebody who simply pays his personal property taxes.
    I’ll go one step further too. If I was Slonaker, I would stop handing out free food and discounted food to Albemarle County employees (police) after the way the county has been treating him.

  • Demopublican, It seems that according to your personal system of values an average citizen is worthy of some respect and a citizen who for some reason feeds the system with more money than others might is due more respect. I would have to assume that someone who is homeless or simply poor would be due none of your respect. Good to know you are a former law enforcement officer if that’s the case.

    Its also very odd that you would think he ought to be offering less in the way of bribery to those who might be asked to protect him unless you are suggesting that he simply hasn’t been showing a good return on “investment” so far. I may well be mistaken, but I doubt if it was the police who cited him.

  • I’m a Forest Lakes resident and many of my neighbors are sick of looking at all the crap Slonaker sticks in front of Arby’s to get attention: inflatable signs, giant banners, trucks with signs on the side, etc. The guy is always pushing the boundaries. And hiding behind the flag while he’s at it.

    He’s also responsible for dumping his waste grease in the lakes rather than paying to have it recycled. He finally got busted for it four years ago and had to pay to skim it off one of the lakes (though it eventually covered all of them). The story was in the Progress.

    I’m a lifelong conservative, but watching the local Republican party rally around this guy has been an eye-opener. I used to think guys like him were just stereotypes created by the left.

  • I wonder if the people who live in Forest Lakes have banned service trucks with signs on the sides from that subdivision and insist that they can only do business if they come in unmarked trucks and cars. I imagine some of them don’t want the police or other emergency vehicles in there either.

  • Now we see the real problem, in my opinion…. the people in surrounding subdivisions don’t like commercial property so close to them. Why the heck did they buy a home in Forest Lakes if this is the case? You’re gonna have to travel by these businesses as you come and go to and from your residence, whether you like it or not. It’s been my personal observation in more than one case that people in Forest Lakes think way too much of themselves. One of those “buy ’em for what they are worth, and sell ’em for they think they are worth” situations.

    And Boss Of Me, that’s not exactly what I said. But yes, I think a hard working person paying tens of thousands of dollars in tax money each year through his/her business ventures deserves a little more respect than a homeless person. This belief of mine doesn’t make a homeless person anything less than a human being. As a former law enforcement officer (your words) of almost 30 years, you won’t find anything in my personnel file where I ever mistreated anybody for any reason. And you won’t find one document whatsoever where I used excessive force, used a condescending attitude towards anybody, or made a false arrest of any sort as well. And let there be no mistake, call it a bribe or whatever you want, restaurants and businesses give free food and beverages to cops just for the privilege of their being on the premises and a police car parked out front for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Are they buying “cheap” protection? Yes, I think that’s an accurate assessment. I will also say I never accepted free food or beverages in any place of business in the City of Charlottesville or the County of Albemarle in my entire career.

  • Voice of reality

    Demo, he still has your respect now that you know that he most likely poured waste grease in a lake? Are you that much of a patsy?

  • “Demo, he still has your respect now that you know that he most likely poured waste grease in a lake?”

  • Uneven enforcement — I’ll say!!!!!!

    Anyone ever driven by Floor Fashions on US 250 east and seen their truck parked in the front of the parking lot?

    Why is it OK for that truck to be parked there (for obvious advertising reasons — big as a billboard) but it’s not OK for the Arby’s guy to park his Arby trucks in his parking lot? BTW, Slonaker lives in Keswick, so he drives by Floor Fashions every day and has a constant reminder of the County’s uneven enforcement.

    Go to:
    and look at the Street View. There’s the big ole Floor Fashions truck parked right there for all to see.

    The County is a little uneven in a lot of its enforcement. Just pick and ordinance or law . . .

  • Betty, I am sure that will be introduced as evidence. And many other examples.
    When county departments get a case of the ass for anybody, they do stupid things. They can’t help themselves. I received a substantial out of court settlement a few years back when a couple of county police employees and I had a major disagreement. The settlement of course says they admit no wrongdoing, so they of course had “committed no wrongdoing” the entire time I drove to the bank to deposit the check. :)

  • I’m not sure that any evidence of uneven enforcement is going to help, since this will be a civil case and the judge is all-powerful. All he has to say is it’s irrelevant, that the enforcement is uneven, and that the law is the law (in this case, even just a pathetic little local ordinance). Was Slonaker not aware of the ordinance?…

    Look at the positions/opinions here on the blog: either you don’t like the guy and you feel it’s justified to get even, or you want the law to be applied equitably, especially for your friend the rightwinger crap-food maker Arby’s. [Yeah, I’ve tried his half-cooked still unfrozen chicken].

    So, why would the damn judge get to override everyone with his single opinion?

  • Majung, to be honest, you actually got me to thinking (and that’s dangerous)….. another good point. A local judge shouldn’t even hear any case related to any of this. It’s not fair to the plaintiff to ask a county judge to rule against the county he technically works for. They should bring in a substitute judge from another district. A judge from another district may not feel selective enforcement is irrelevant.

  • Demo – where you gonna fly the judge in from? Cali? Vermont? ‘cuz you know they all know each other within a 100 mile radius… Most of the time, there’s primordial ooze going on with those folks too!

  • I’ve been impressed with Northern Virginia judges for about the last 12 years. They don’t let anybody pull the wool over their eyes. I’ve also been impressed with a Richmond judge for several years, she also doesn’t let anybody play her for a fool.

  • The furniture store on 29 North (I think it’s “Better living”) between the Jim Price auto lot and Keglers Bowling, always has an unhooked Trailer (as in tractor trailer trailer) parked next to their store, with their signage covering the complete trailer. The side of a tractor trailer’s trailer – is easily as large as a billboard. And I’ll betcha it’s empty too.

    Yup, I’m agreeing with the Arbys guy- it’s unequal enforcement.

  • TrvlnMn, businesses in Albemarle County have been doing the truck and van thing for years. Many still do. Slonaker is simply fighting back because it appears he has been singled out for selective enforcement once again. As I said above, once the county gets a case of the ass for somebody, they never let up.

  • Ever noticed Schewels and Better Living have their OWN personal red light there right on 29N? Carrsbrook residents are not supposed to use it to do a U-Turn, but they have their OWN frakkin’ red light! Somebody’s sleeping around, that’s my guess!

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