Well-known Denton businessman and community advocate Andre "Frenchy" Rheault has been told to remove dozens of American flags from his company's fleet yard as they actually violate city code.
The code states that a property in the city limits may only fly one American flag, one Texas flag and one miscellaneous flag, according to Lancine Bentley, Denton's community improvement services manager.
"That's the same ordinance everyone in this town follows," said Bentley. "It's there for everybody."
However, for more than 20 years, Rheault said he's been flying anywhere between 20 and 40 American flags on the Dallas Drive property along with others on his company vans, plus a mural of the flag on top of the building.
"They've been here for 20-plus years, and for code enforcement to come along and say we're going to start enforcing the law now?" said Rheault.
Bentley said the city has been working for a while now to get caught up on code enforcement issues across town and currently they're taking on commercial property issues.
“We were going to get to Dallas Drive eventually,” she said.
However, the city arrived at Frenchy’s property due to a complaint, Bentley said.
Upon inspection they discovered several issues, including illegal ground signs, lack of a certificate of occupancy to operate at the site, parking on an unapproved surface and the flags, which fall under “too many wind devices without a permit.”
Rheault said he worked with the city on most of the issues and complied by doing things like removing the signs and repaving certain areas of the lot, but he said he will not be taking down the flags.
"I told them I wasn't going to take down the flags. They were going to have to take me to court," he said.
Rheault, whom most know as Frenchy, is a Vietnam veteran who, in addition to running a lawn and tree service in the city, volunteers and donates time and funds to many veterans services.
"I'm patriotic all the time,” said Rheault. "They say I have too many flags? There is no such thing as having too many flags."
Bentley said they’ve sent Rheault several notices that he needs to get the property into compliance.
She also said he has the option to buy a $90 permit up to three times a year that will let him fly as many flags as he wants for 30 days.
"Ninety days out of the year you can have above the three that you're allowed to have,” Bentley said.
However, Bentley said under current city ordinance there is no way Rheault can continue flying all of his flags year-round.
Rheault received a citation in the mail Thursday telling him to appear in court on the matter in early December.
Since news of the situation hit social media, many have begun stepping up in support of Rheault, even starting a petition Thursday that was up to more than 2,500 signatures online by the evening.
Rheault said he’s contacted several city leaders asking them to step in and do something about the situation.
"I didn't want it to go this far,” he said. “I’m Denton’s biggest fan. I just wanted to fly my flags.”
Bentley said her department has little choice on this matter, as ordinance has to be applied across the board. She said any changes to the rules will have to come from the city council.
Rheault said he plans to see this one through now that it has started.
“I'm not taking my flags down,” he said.