To some, the American flag in the backyard at 29 Broughton St. might be a grand patriotic gesture, waving to ships passing along the Intracoastal Waterway near the Wappoo Cut.
To others, however, it's a monumental mistake.
David Abdo erected the 60-foot-tall flagpole earlier this year without a permit. Once the city became aware of it, officials argued that the pole's height was 25 feet taller than than zoning permitted for structures in West Ashley's Crescent neighborhood.
Abdo hired a lawyer and appealed, arguing the flagpole was a monument — one that honors his father-in-law and brother-in-law for their military service — and therefore exempt from the city's height rules.
The debate played out Tuesday before the Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals, which had to decide whether the flagpole was a monument or a mistake.
Zoning Administrator Lee Batchelder defended his ruling that the flagpole isn't a monument by showing pictures of some of the world's most prominent monuments — and by sharing the definition of the word that he found on the Bing search engine.
"To me, a monument is something more significant," he said.
Abdo's attorney, John Massalon, argued that the city's ordinance does not define a monument so Abdo should get the benefit of the doubt.
"What my client here has is a monument," Massalon said.
No one spoke publicly against the flagpole, but Batchelder shared an email from a neighbor who found it out of character.
"The extra large flag flapping in the breeze and halyard banging against the metal pole are audible problems as well," the email said. "On some days, the halyard and pole sounds like someone constantly ringing a bell — we can actually hear it in our house with the windows and doors closed!"
Board of Zoning Appeals Chairman Leonard Krawcheck noted the city's height rules exempt not only monuments but also church spires, domes, belfries, water towers, observation towers, transmitter towers, aerials and masts.
"It doesn't say flagpoles," he said. "If the exception said 'flagpoles,' we wouldn't be here. ... I know a duck when I see it. I just don't agree a flagpole is a monument."
The board unanimously agreed in a decision expected to force Abdo to remove or lower the pole. He could appeal the ruling in circuit court.
Both Krawcheck and board member Mike Robinson noted their decision is the first of its kind.
"I've been on the board 30 years," Robinson said, "and it never ceases to amaze me how many new things pop up."