XENIA — A popular inflatable eagle seen floating near downtown Xenia the last couple years has been grounded.
The giant bird, which is erected in front of Alan Besco Car & Truck Superstore on Main Street, is no longer allowed to be flown after the Xenia Board of Zoning Appeals recently voted 3-2 to deny a variance requested by the owners.
Sisters Stacy Sparks and Melanie Atley — who took over the business from their father — previously paid for a permit to fly the bird 10 days a month. A change in the zoning code in 2016 limited inflatables to 12 feet and 14 days per year. Annie the Eagle checks in around 25 feet according to city records. Before that, Besco flew Dorothy the Dinosaur and a brown gorilla.
Atley is puzzled by the decision.
“We’ve been putting them up for over 20 years. We went to them and asked them about the eagle before we bought it,” she said. “They never gave us a direct answer. Now all the sudden, two years later they’ve started enforcing it. We just feel like we’ve been here going on 37 years and we’ve never had a problem. We try to comply with everything. We’re pretty easy to get along with. We keep everything nice and fresh.”
The city disagreed with Atley’s assessment. In a joint statement from City Planner Brian Forschner and Mayor Sarah Mays, who is the chair of the BZA and cast the deciding vote, the sisters were told the eagle would not be in compliance.
“In 2016 the Alan Besco dealership discussed with the city the prospect of purchasing and displaying new inflatable signs,” the statement said. “City staff and one council member met in person with the business and the city later sent a summary letter to the business. These communications stated that the city’s land development code regulations adopted in mid-2016 allow inflatable signs but limit their height to 12 feet, their area to 32 feet, and their duration to 14 days per year. The city also provided examples of other types of permissible signs that did not have time restrictions. Furthermore, the city informed Alan Besco that, in order to have larger signs, they would need to apply for a variance (a single-property exception from the law) from the board of zoning appeals (BZA) or city council to change the code.”
The city’s statement said after receiving that information, “the business chose none of the above legal options.”
“The business instead ignored the city’s instructions and purchased and displayed a 25 foot tall, approximately 372 square foot inflatable eagle and two 20 foot tall inflatable ‘dancer’ signs, with the intent of displaying them 120 days per year, in violation of the code. The city again communicated to the business that these signs are not permitted, and the business complied, removed the signs, and requested a variance.”
In turning down the variance request, the BZA found that “the staff report demonstrated that the business violated the code despite advanced warnings from the city, and that the variance request failed to meet the land development code’s variance review criteria.”
Residents are also perplexed as a Save Annie the Eagle page has been started on Facebook, along with myriad comments in support of Besco and the bird.
“People look forward to that,” Atley said. “I get phone calls asking what time we’re taking the eagle down because their kids want to see it. We bring in a lot of revenue outside (Xenia). A lot of people come here … that wouldn’t normally come to Xenia. They said that doesn’t matter. Basically rules are rules.”
City Councilman Dale Louderback also told the BZA he was in favor of the variance.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.