Liberty squares off with city of Tyler - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Liberty squares off with city of Tyler

By Philippe Djegal - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - If you've ever strolled down Old Bullard Road in Tyler near the Broadway Square Mall, you've probably seen two or three people dressed as the Statue of Liberty waving you into their driveway. It's a tax season tradition for the business Liberty Tax Service. But, the City of Tyler is forcing those costumes back into the closet.

"It brings in over 50% of our new clients," said Maureen Parkhill, co-owner of Liberty Tax Services.

Liberty Tax Services relies on it's waving statues to bolster business.

"We're up 100% from last year," said Parkhill.

This is what the front of their business looks like every tax season except this one.

"The city has shut us down," said Parkhill.

For 12 hours a day, five days a week, at least three employees dress as the Statue of Liberty, waving clients into the office. But, now, the City of Tyler says those costumes are in violation of the sign ordinance.

"They have told us that our people in costumes are three dimensional signs," explained Parkhill.

According to city code: flashing, fluttering, undulating, swinging, rotating or otherwise moving signs are prohibited, as well as three dimensional or statuary signs.

"A sign is an innate object," said Parkhill. "This is a human being in a costume."

Five large American flags were posted in front of the business, and eight small American flags were planted in the ground.

But, according to the city, those flags were in violation of the flags code. No more than three flag poles are allowed on any one lot.

Maureen Parkhill was also forced to take down the party balloons she had tied to her deck.

"The ordinance reads that 18-inch or larger tethered balloons are illegal," she explained.

Parkhill says this crackdown will hurt her business.

"I'm supposed to do 22 returns today - that's my projection," she said. "We're not going to make that most likely."

And, a few more East Texans are out of work.

"There's about 25 people that I was employing that I can't employ now," said Parkhill. "We're a small business just trying to make a living."

The city was unavailable to comment on-camera today, but did released a statement, regarding the sign ordinance, saying "we have completed an online community survey and a public meeting. The results will go to the next meeting of the Unified Development Code Committee who will make recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission. They will then make a recommendation to council on whether to change the ordinance or not.

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