Zoning

Vermont Man Barred From Building on His Own Property Flips Off Government With Giant Middle Finger Statue

And there's nothing the town can do to stop him.

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Facebook/Ted Pelkey's Middle Finger Sculpture in Westford, Vermont

Frequent Reason readers probably know that zoning regulations can be a bit…let's just say cumbersome. Over the years, we've covered countless stories about the government getting in the way of citizens building what they want on their own private property. But most citizens don't respond the way Ted Pelkey of Vermont did.

First, a bit of background. Pelkey runs a monofilament recycling and truck repair business with his son. For years, he says he's been trying to move his business from Swanton, Vermont, to Westford. To do that, he needs a permit to build an 8,000-square foot garage on his property in Westford. But the town has been giving him issues.

"We've been trying to put a business there for the past 10 years," Pelkey told the Burlington Free Press. "It's just never-ending. They're railroading us really good," he added, explaining that his business is "a low-impact thing" with "such little traffic you'd wonder if we were open."

So why won't the town of Westford let Pelkey build the garage? Vice News reports:

The Westford Selectboard and Development Review Board had denied Pelkey's requests for the large garage, asserting that his applications did not meet the town's standards for a variety of reasons. Among them, Pelkey's application lacked necessary information about lighting that will "likely be needed for security purposes," and did not effectively describe the purpose of the building, officials said.

Pelkey isn't buying it, instead claiming the town review board is biased against him. "The strain (with local officials) has been there for 10 years," he told the New Haven Register. "They don't like us."

Eventually, Pelkey decided to take action. "I was sitting at a bar and said to my wife, 'Hey, I want to get a statue made of a middle finger, and I'm going to put it up on the lawn,'" he told Boston.com.

So that's exactly what he did. Pelkey commissioned a Vermont artist to carve a 700-pound, wooden sculpture of the middle finger. On November 30, he had it installed in his yard, complete with two floodlights so that it's visible 24/7. All told, the project cost about $4,000. "If you don't want to look at the building, look at this," he told Boston.com.

Here's the kicker: The town may be able to stop him from building his garage, but there's not a single thing officials can do to force him to get rid of the middle finger statue. While the state of Vermont doesn't allow "off-premise" billboards, the sculpture isn't actually advertising anything. Instead, it's considered public art, which is protected under the First Amendment. Pelkey is not breaking a state law, and according to Westford Selectboard Chair Allison Hope, he's not in violation of any local regulations either. "The Pelkeys can do what they like to exercise their free speech within the laws and regulations," Hope told the Burlington Free Press.

So the middle finger will stay up, at least for the foreseeable future. Pelkey's attorney has appealed the review board's decision regarding construction of the garage, with a court hearing possible next month.

Hopefully, Pelkey will be able to build his garage—it's his own property after all. Even if his efforts fail, we applaud him for taking matters into his own hands and exercising his right to freedom of speech. I'm sure there have been times when we've all wanted to flip off the government. Pelkey simply took things to the next level.

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75 responses to “Vermont Man Barred From Building on His Own Property Flips Off Government With Giant Middle Finger Statue

  1. Beautiful.

  2. Pelkey runs a monofilament recycling and truck repair business with his son.

    *steeples fingers*

    Are these really the kind of people we want in this community?

    1. Um…YES!

  3. “off-premise” billboards, the sculpture isn’t actually advertising anything. Instead, it’s considered public art, which is protected under the First Amendment

    Both of those things should be protected by the first amendment.

  4. My *new* hero

    1. I hope Mr. Pelkey is able to build his building after complying with relevant rules. Ineffective, immature jerks have rights, too.

      1. Agreed. And I’ll argue to the death your ability to keep posting here, no matter how ineffective or immature you are.

      2. There is only one reason this guy ain’t being allowed to build and its because the local government officials are being dicks.

        Westford Vt is a tiny, non urban town. Meaning you still have legit actual farming and animal husbandry going on within the towns borders.

        Drive out of town North or South on the road this guy wants to build his garage and you’ll see:

        Multiple 1970s era mobile homes in various states of disrepair

        A very old, 700 foot long barn for what I suspect is a dairy, complete with what appears from satellite imagery, a pit to hold cow sewage and other nasty byproducts. This too is quite an eyesore, not to mention a serious water/nose polluter.

        A Land Rover parts dealer (shipping of parts I would expect cause how many Land Rovers do you think are really in VT)

        An old farm coop

        What appears to be a heavy truck repair place.

        In all probability this garage would be about the 2nd nicest looking place along the road

        1. Why assume the dicks are the several people on that board rather than the one guy who seems to have problems? Has anyone else complained about a 10-year process to get a minor building approved in a minor town? This guy admits he submitted a half-baked application and his problem seems to be that he is an anti-social, ineffective jerk, not that everyone is ‘out to get him.’

          1. I thought your dumb ass grew up in a small town. They have political problems from nimby types too.

          2. He hired a lawyer and engineer to put together a proposal that was rejected.

            Presumably VT licenses both engineers and lawyers, so one hopes that means the licensing standard is that they can read objective requirements* from law books and code books, and craft legal documents and engineering documents that are in compliance.

            *I mention objective requirements because Development Review Board sounds like the sort of government entity that can reject proposals that comply with all statutory requirements because FYTW.

      3. You should be beaten repeatedly with a Louisville slugger, finished off with 3 rounds to your retarded head, and your worthless corpse dumped in an alley in Camden NJ.

        1. I have to admit that I look forward to the day we find out that the good Rev got beaten to death by a meth addled hooker he was trying to lecture.

      4. Well, the ineffective, immature jerks on countless city councils appear to have more rights than the regular ineffective, immature jerks not in government.

        This ineffective, immature jerk sides with the ineffective, immature jerks that are not in power.

      5. Speaking of ineffective, immature jerks . . .

  5. So a few years from now we’ll be seeing a story about how the guy got his plans approved and spent $300k on the building and now the city’s giving him the run-around on giving him an occupancy permit and a business license because all 42 times codes enforcement has come out for the final inspection they’ve found some variance that needs to be corrected like moving the building a foot to the left, replacing the columns, tearing out and re-pouring the slab, having the plumbing and electrical re-done, raising the windows 3/16″, etc.?

    1. And then we’ll hear a story about how the town council all got shotgunned to death.

      1. And then we’ll hear a story about how the town council all got shotgunned woodchippered to death.

        FTFY.

        1. Woodchipper is just for disposal.

          1. After a nice helicopter ride.

        2. For reasons unknown. Some local guy just went crazy one day and nobody knows why.

      2. The Killdozer was a thing, just saying.

  6. Bravo Ted, bravo.

  7. Not all heroes wear capes,

    1. I tweeted that out with the article.

    2. Yeah, there’s The Flash.

  8. Should have been a sculpture of the Killdozer.

  9. Now, this is GANGSA AF. I highly approve.

  10. Hopefully, Pelkey will be able to build his garage?it’s his own property after all.

    No it’s not. Stop paying property taxes and tell me who owns the property. Nope, we only rent it from the local government.

    1. Oh, the county and state get their cuts.

    2. ^^^

      Yeah, Joe, what’s up with the silly “his own property”? Are you shilling for the government and bankers to perpetuate the illusion that we are anything but serfs and debt slaves?

      We own very little of what we think we do.

      1. Hey, taxes are what we pay for civilized society. Oh, never mind.

        1. you call this civilized?

        2. Taxes on income could be justified by your comment.

          But taxes on property?? That is confiscatory, plain and simple. Refuse to pay, and they take your property proving that you never owned it in the first place.

          Property tax, estate tax are appalling overreaches, and the antithesis of a free society.

    3. I was waiting for someone to point this out. If you have to ask permission to use your own “property” is it actually “your” property to begin with?

  11. Can art be created in the shape of a garage?

    1. Probably can’t be occupied, except by His Majesty’s Troops, since the 3rd amendment hasn’t been incorporated yet.

    2. What was that case in Detroit, where a legit business owner was sued/fined/complicit for painting over graffiti on their exterior walls because it was considered public art?

  12. Brilliant. Now a butt floating overhead.

    1. Nice. Make it out of balloons that bob in the wind on top of the finger.

      1. Somewhat relevant and obligatory.

        1. Where did my link go?

    2. I don’t know….The Homos might get mad & call it a hate crime & Pelkey will be even more screwed!

  13. Why can’t a garage building be considered a work of art? Make it look really pretty like.

  14. “He apparently can do what he’s done,” Hope said of the sculpture.

    Hope had the town’s planning coordinator look at the zoning regulations…

    Oh, I’m sure she did.

  15. Great job dude!

    OTOH, I would bet dollars to donuts that he is one of the many Vermont voters who elect Bernie Sanders and push that nonsense on the rest of America.

    Some people get upset when their voting for statists comes back to bite them in the ass.

    Hopefully I am wrong about this guy and he is Liberty-minded all the way.

    1. I suspect he either was all along, or is now

  16. Nominee: Reason.com Man/Woman/Entity of the Year

  17. That means the government is number one.

  18. Busybody local governments (and private HOAs) is what happens when you let women be in charge of anything.

  19. I’m curious about how this had escalated for ten years. Clearly he hasn’t submitted and resubmitted the permits throughout that timeframe.

  20. Of course, if a local government denied a permit to build a bathhouse for gay men to sodomize each other in, they’d be accused of a hate crime.

    1. Well, it is non-normative, so they can’t even talk about it on Facebook now.

  21. Yeah, due to the high dollar art exhibit the city will triple the value of the property and raise the property tax.

    Kind of hard to fight tyrants.

  22. After the LP formed in 1971, most government growth has been in among state and local martinets and soviet socialist activists. This may get the ku-kluxers to put pressure on the zoning bureaucrats on grounds of fighting “obscenity”. Life is more and more like a Gilbert Shelton comic.

  23. Ben & Jerry’s #Finger !

  24. I have only one question.
    Why does he want to move his business here, anyway? It sounds like he’s demanding to move into a toxic place.
    He should buy a plot outside of town, where the local busybodies can’t keep harassing him.
    I mean, it’s his right to do this, but he’s basically setting himself up for perpetual abuse by doing so.

    He should lease his property to whoever will cause the city council the biggest ulcers.

    1. He lives there on the land he wants to build.
      He currently leases land for his business some 25 miles away.

      The town is really just a few streets, and then the surrounding 2 or 3 miles of farms, and kinda large lots.

  25. Pelkey runs a monofilament recycling and truck repair business with his son….

    That’s an odd line of business to be in. The mind reels…..

    1. Don’t think we all didn’t see what you did there

  26. I find in hard to believe he cannot be ARRESTED on TRUMPED UP CHARGES, held WITHOUT BAIL, while his land is ILLEGALLY CONFISCATED and his PRIVATE PROPERTY DESTROYED.

    Vermont is living in the past. Common Vermont, join the rest of the USA with it’s corrupt government, police and courts.
    Impose your government will on the people!

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  28. Awesome.

    And a nice reminder of the importance of local politics.

    The only upshot is that as a local issue he might eventually win. If this were a federal issue he’d be screwed.

  29. There are a lot of ways the government can get you. This guy is going to learn some new ones.

  30. “If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I am going to get angry.”
    “Can’t say as I’d be sorry to see it,” said Robin, lowering his voice. “If we all got angry together, something might be done.”

    Granted, I don’t think Prof. Tolkien would approve of rude gestures. Openly, anyway.

  31. Just an example that indicates that politicians view themselves as gods and what they say is gospel. Now I would bet that that gospel could be changed if the correct inducement was offered!

  32. But seriously, can’t we build a movement around this guy, with “the finger” as our symbol?

    I can see bumper stickers with “”the finger image” county government”, or ” “the finger image” progressives”. etc. Seems as reasonable as donkeys. elephants, socialist roses, etc.

  33. Not all heroes wear capes

  34. For articles like this, it might be helpful to publish the names of all of the board members who voted against the property owner.

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