UPDATE: Thursday Springbrook Flats management clarified that senior couple can keep their flagpole installed permanently.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A controversy is brewing over residents' rights to display an American Flag at an apartment complex in Grand Rapids. Jim and Dee Tipton reached out to FOX 17 for help when, after nearly two decades of proudly displaying the Stars and Stripes, they said their housing management plans to remove their flagpole.
The Tiptons began building a life together 16 years ago at their Springbrook Flats apartment and got permission from the previous owners to install a flagpole on the property near their front yard. However, they say their current owners said they plan to remove it.
“I just believe in the United States and I believe in the flag, and I feel I should have a right to fly it,” said Jim Tipton.
After they decided to stay and sign a new lease this summer due to health issues, the Tiptons encountered a battle they never expected: new ownership telling them to remove their flagpole.
“It would probably break my heart,” said Jim. “I’m not a veteran, but I sure wish I would have been.”
Jim said even their neighbors take care of the flag and pole.
“That eagle up there is over 100 years old. That was my great-grandfather's,” said Jim holding onto the flagpole. “I made these flagpoles where I worked.”
Thumbing through stacks of recent flyers, the Tiptons said they are not only losing their American flag, their new lease redefines what can be placed in common areas in the complex. Carports are now first-come, first-served, according to flyers posted there. That means the Tiptons can no longer store their wagon for groceries there. And no more charcoal grills or dog cables outside.
“We’ve been here for 16 years, and I think they’re pulling away our rights,” said Delores Tipton. “They treat you like a dog.”
Now the couple is looking to move as soon as their lease is up, but they are hopeful the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act will protect their proud display out in the yard.
“We’ve had that for so long it’s part of the family,,” Delores Tipson said. "The law says we can have it, and everybody around here has really enjoyed it."
FOX 17 spoke with a Springbrook Flats manager in person Wednesday, who was not authorized to speak with media and deferred to the property owners, Brookside Properties, Inc., based in Nashville, Tenn. As of news time we have yet to hear back.