Flag raising still an issue of debate in Napanee

The address 99 Advance Avenue in Napanee is the new home of the Town’s Administrative staff. Some have voiced concerns that it is too far off the beaten path for special flags to celebrate community groups in a meaningful way. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

At their first regular meeting of the new year on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, the Greater Napanee Town Council will receive a report prepared by the Town Legislative Services Staff, proposing amendments to the Town’s Flag and Proclamation Policies.

The preferred location of a public flagpole for flag-raising ceremonies has been debated for several years in Greater Napanee. The new staff report aims to rectify that situation, but it might not be to the liking of some community groups who wish their flags to be flown at the historic Town Hall in the heart of Greater Napanee.

“With the move of the Administration Office to 99 Advance Avenue and the installation of the official Town flagpole at that location, a review of policies related to flags is warranted,” says the staff report. However, the report also suggests “officially moving the guest flag for proclaimed events to 99 Advance Avenue,” making it unclear if the decision to make the flag-raising location “official” was previously determined by Council or simply decided on by staff.

A new flagpole was erected at 99 Advance in the spring of 2023. However, readers will recall in May 2023, the location seemed to be up for debate at Council when Councillor Dave Pinnell voiced the question of where the Pride flag raising, and flag raisings in general, would take place. At that time, Town Clerk Jessica Walters pointed out that Town policy was amended in 2022 to say that flags would be raised at Town Hall “once we got a flagpole to do that. Unfortunately, we still don’t have a flagpole here, nor at 99 Advance Ave.”

Brandt Zatterberg, Manager of Community and Corporate Services, then noted that the flagpoles had “been delivered, it’s just a question of when we can get the installation done.” Since that discussion in May 2023, those flagpoles have been installed at 99 Advance Avenue.

The position of the flagpoles has been a subject of much controversy in the Town of Napanee, with advocates requesting that Council fly the Pride flag, and indeed all special flags, in a prominent, well-travelled part of town that is visible and accessible, so that the inclusive nature of the town can be publicly displayed.

request for ‘visible and accessible placement’ for the Napanee Pride flag was not supported by Council in June 2021, nor during the three years prior. Instead, the Town of Greater Napanee designated one community flagpole at the North Fredericksburgh Lifestyle Centre/Sports Complex, which is a ten-minute drive from Town Hall, out in the countryside.

The new report to be discussed on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, points out that the previous Council chose the North Fredericksburgh “Lifestyle Centre” as the location for the community flagpole as part of a vision for that location becoming a community hub where larger outdoor gatherings could occur for celebrations. However, a community survey undertaken in January 2022 found a strong preference for the community flagpole to be moved to Market Square where it would be visible in the downtown core to visitors and townspeople alike. 

In a February 2022 staff report, it was noted that citizens did not favour the rural location, stating that “over the past twenty months, staff have received numerous concerns about the location of the public flagpole. Complaints have primarily been around the lack of visibility for most residents and visitors.” Whether 99 Advance Avenue is considered visible enough remains highly contentious.

The new report notes that over the past year, it also became apparent that the current policy needs to be clearer and that staff, Council, and community groups would benefit from more direct expectations. 

The Historic Napanee Town Hall, at the heart of Napanee, has long been touted as the better place for the Town to recognize special causes and groups. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

About “Raising of Special Flags”, the report states that because the operational responsibilities are the same for raising and lowering flags, staff propose moving the procedures around raising of special event flags to the flag protocol policy. 

Concerning “Half-Masting of Flags”, the report notes that flags are flown at half-mast to commemorate a shared sense of sorrow, and that national etiquette for the display and half-masting of flags is published by Heritage Canada. The report proposes that the responsibilities for the implementation and monitoring of the policy be assigned. 

The report suggests identifying and laying out in the policy the hours and days during which flags will be raised and lowered, the process to be followed if an event happens on a weekend or holiday, and to which flagpoles the policy applies. It also recommends that the Mayor and CAO be given the discretionary authority to identify an event of local significance for which flags should be lowered.

The proposed amendment includes directions for flags to be lowered in recognition of Remembrance Day each year. The report notes also that there are other recurring dates recognized by Heritage Canada which can be included now, or at a future date, at Council’s direction. 

The report also goes on to make suggestions about what it calls “Community Visual Displays”, stating, “the Town is supportive of efforts by community groups to beautify Town assets and add art to public spaces.”

“To support improved communications between the Town and community groups, to ensure opportunities are made equally available to any eligible group, and to ensure these assets do not fall into disrepair,” the staff report recommends that language should clarify that all new installations require Council approval. However, once Council approval has been given, “recurring installations may be approved by staff if there is no change to the proposed location or scope of the work and the activities comply with the policy guidelines.”

The report also suggests differentiating between different types of community visual displays, using past practices as a guideline, and granting authority to the Community & Corporate Services department to establish reasonable limitations on the number, timing, and appearance of visual displays to ensure all artistic installations support the Town’s aesthetic values and that opportunities remain open for multiple community groups to participate.

Staff further recommend that the policy should clearly state that the overall ownership of municipal assets and public spaces remains under the Town’s authority and that past approval of installations does not guarantee ongoing future or exclusive approval.

The report also recommends establishing a defined schedule for special banners on Dundas Street, which does not require further Council approval to implement each year. Any additions or removals from the defined schedule would require Council approval. 

The report notes, “Staff believe these changes will help to support continued community participation in beautifying public spaces, while mitigating scheduling conflicts and ensuring these spaces are maintained at a high quality.”

“The general principles of the policy remain unchanged,” the report asserts. “The purpose… is to provide greater clarity to all parties. The proposed policy also clarifies that public art installations that are intended to be permanent will follow the evaluation and approval process outlined in the recently approved Donations and Sponsorships Policy to ensure that factors such as ongoing maintenance and liability are considered prior to approval.” 

The report notes that the largest expense associated with visual displays is the transition of banners on Dundas Street, as a traffic management plan is required with the use of a lift. The internal cost to change banners along the Napanee River boardwalk, at the Strathcona Paper Centre arena, and in the Market Square is lower, as there is much less vehicle traffic at those sites. 

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