Saturday, December 05, 2009

The inconspicuous flagpole:
What Google Maps reveals

[Please comment and share with friends.]

No doubt you have heard of the flagpole complaint* against Col. Van T. Barfoot, a 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient and Choctaw Indian. His homeowner’s association is trying to force him to remove the flagpole on his property, for purportedly “aesthetic” reasons, even though the association’s bylaws do not expressly forbid free-standing flagpoles or vertical masts.

Hoping to catch a pedestrian’s eye view of Barfoot’s house using Google’s Street View, I looked up his Richmond, Virginia address in an Internet phone directory, and then plugged it into Google Maps. His house was not pictured; Google’s cameras have not reached his street.

What the map does reveal, however, was a surprise: Barfoot’s property is situated in a cul-de-sac at the end of a winding lane. The only way to get there is to turn off the main street (Gayton Road), enter the cloistered neighborhood, turn off Sussex Square Drive onto Coat Bridge Lane, and follow that street around a final curve to a dead end. In other words, only a few close neighbors in his association can actually see his house. Unless you live next door to him, you would have to go out of your way to see the flagpole (or the flag, which is what I believe this is really about).

Furthermore, his property lies at the outer perimeter of the development, which borders a large tract of open land. Visible by satellite, again using Google, you can see an adjacent area covered with brush, then a large open space, past which is a shopping or business development. So the opportunity to see his property is extremely minimal.

Not that any of this matters; the flagpole is only 21 feet high. Photos of his modest home shot from the street reveal that the pole barely reaches the top of the house and is in no way conspicuous. What cannot be seen cannot pose an aesthetic issue.

I am guessing, therefore, that it is one or two immediate neighbors who are making this an issue – either that, or some idle busybodies on the HOA board.


While on hold with Mark Levin’s radio show yesterday to speak about this, I telephoned the Barfoot residence to confirm that I had the right address.

I was right. Barfoot’s son-in-law, Roger Nicholls, confirmed by phone that you’d have to go out of your way to see the pole. Their phone has been so bombarded, they have had to schedule people to answer calls in shifts, he said. Because of the lawsuit, he is not providing a lot of other information to the press. But it is not a happy time for this family; the lawsuit has caused Barfoot and the Nicholls – who live on the same street – an enormous amount of stress.

Mark’s show ended before I could speak to him on-air; I’ll try again Monday.


Barfoot’s life and exploits during WW II are notable enough that he actually has his own Wikipedia article. The article was not created in response to the lawsuit controversy; it was first published over two years ago.

* At present there is no lawsuit against Barfoot – only the threat of one. The HOA, in a statement on their lawyer’s Web site, states that it is a “request.” Other sources indicate there is a $10 fine for each day he does not comply with the HOA’s request. On Thursday night (December 3), the HOA extended its deadline to December 11 – the anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war on Italy and Germany.

– Paul Klenk


Walter said...

Barfoot’s life and exploits during WW II are notable enough that he actually has his own Wikipedia article.

DUH... anyone can have their own Wikipedia article. From the website:

Wikipedia is written collaboratively by an international group of volunteers. Anyone with internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles. There are no requirements to provide one's real name when contributing; rather, each writer's privacy is protected unless they choose to reveal their identity themselves.

Visitors do not need specialized qualifications to contribute. Wikipedia's intent is to have articles that cover existing knowledge, not create new knowledge (original research). This means that people of all ages and cultural and social backgrounds can write Wikipedia articles. Most of the articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking the edit this page link.

Paul Klenk said...

Actually, not anyone can have their own Wikipedia article. You must be a notable person. Barfoot is definitely notable.

If you create a story about yourself, for instance, or a friend of yours that nobody has heard of, it will quickly get deleted by users.