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Black Lives Matter sign outside Chesterfield home violates county rule: 'If not in front of our house, then where?'

"If not in front of our house, then where?"
Posted at 12:23 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 15:22:25-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- On Tim and Laura Barry’s Buford Road home, a projected message glows on the face of their house every night.

The projections, which started shortly after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, focus on political issues such as racial injustice, healthcare, and women’s rights.

“It’s moving to so many people and it makes so many people feel seen and heard,” Lauren Barry said.

In fact, the response to the nightly projections, designed by Laura, has been overwhelming.

An Instagram account, billboardhouse2020, now has more than 1,500 followers and has invited responses from across the country.

“It’s become something we never really anticipated,” says Tim Barry. “We didn’t expect it at all,” added Laura.

While the political messages have attracted national attention and prompted neighborhood chatter, it’s a large B-L-M sign, on the edge of the Barry’s property, that caught Chesterfield County’s eye back in June when the couple built and displayed the sign.

The county sent a letter to the couple in July, stating that the size of the non-commercial sign was in violation of the county’s zoning ordinance. The Barry’s, who said they have a good relationship with the county, also said they tried arguing that the sign was freedom of expression in the form of art.

The county rejected the couple’s argument.

After reviewing their options, the Barry’s are now applying for a Conditional Use Planned Development permit, which must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“We sort of already used all of our appeal periods and they informed us that the remaining option - the best choice really for us at that point - was to go before the Board of Supervisors.”

While the fate of the sign hangs in the balance, there are strong opinions from Bon Air neighbors.

“They’re great neighbors,” Milicent Loehr Lynch said. “It’s nothing personal, I just don’t love anything that is going to draw attention here.”

Lynch said she believed neighbors should be able to express their political opinions but within the scope of county regulations. She said some of the Barry’s political messages have caused friction in the neighborhood because they’re displayed so prominently.

“It’s contentious times,” Lynch said. “I think it’s best to stay on an even playing field, where everyone knows the rules.”

The Barry’s said they hoped the Board of Supervisors would hear them out, arguing their B-L-M message isn’t commercial signage, but an art piece about unity and justice.

“If not in front of our house, then where? Where else can we go to make a statement about what we’re supporting and what we believe in? We want to show our little girls that this is an important thing and we’re going to stand up for folks who might not be able to do it themselves,” Tim Barry said.

Chesterfield County said the Barry’s sign can stay up while the case is pending.