’We’re just causing a little bit of good trouble’: Chesterfield couple’s large-scale BLM sign draws support, opposition

Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 11:36 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a summer of social change and unrest, Tim and Lauren Barry just wanted to convey a small message, in a big way.

“We went to Lowes and we bought some 4x8 pieces of plywood and a saw and some spray paint, and we put those up just to show our community that we’re allies and that we’re here for them,” said Lauren.

That message at their Chesterfield home off Buford Road is hard not to notice. Together, the couple constructed a large yellow BLM sign in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tim says the letters are made up of around 75 square feet of Plywood, but they never imagined all the attention it would bring them.

“It’s turned into such a media circus and turned a little bit bigger than we could have ever imagined,” said Tim.

The Barrys say they constructed the sign shortly after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and have received overwhelming support.

“We’ve had people who have driven by and have had to drive by again just to make sure they saw this correctly and have left messages in our mailbox that they’ve felt seen and heard and respected,” said Lauren. “That’s why we did it, and that’s why we love it.”

But the response hasn’t been completely positive.

The Barrys say on top of negative comments and messages on social media a complaint from a neighbor to take the Black Lives Matter message down has brought the attention of Chesterfield County.

“The County did receive a complaint from a neighbor about the sign and they took the proper action by contacting us and letting us know that it was in violation of the zoning ordinances," said Tim.

According to Chesterfield County, the Barrys' sign is in violation of a Chesterfield County zoning ordinance. Specifically, property in a residential district has sign restrictions. Noncommercial signage may be provided in more than one sign, provided that the aggregate area of all such signs shall not exceed 8 square feet. A maximum of one sign may be a commercial sign, but can not exceed 6 square feet. Signs may be temporary.

According to Section 19.1-273. A.2.: If no commercial signage is displayed on the property, the noncommercial sign may be substituted for it allowing the aggregate total of permitted signage to be 14 square feet.

Director of the Chesterfield County Department of Communication Susan Pollard says that the ordinance only pertains to the sign’s size or location and not its content.

“Our standard practice is to work with the resident to obtain voluntary compliance. There are three options someone can pursue including filing an appeal within 30 days of the notice of violation, request exceptions to the size and setback requirements, or bring the sign into compliance with the ordinance,” said Pollard. “The owner has indicated they will pursue exceptions to the size and setback requirements through the zoning process. At this time, an application has not yet been submitted.”

The Barrys say they have no ill will toward the County and are pursuing exceptions through the zoning process.

“A little bit of paperwork with the county is certainly worth the positive effects that we’re having on some folks around in the neighborhood,” said Tim. “Right now, we have a first zoning appeal scheduled for next week, so we’re in the process and we’ll see where it goes.”

But while the couple waits the process out, they say they’ve found a workaround to continue getting more of their big ideas across to the masses.

Since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, the Barrys have projected large scale messages using their home as a canvas. The messages are oftentimes political, referencing current events.

Since mid-September, the couple has produced messages referencing the ruling in the hotly contested Breonna Taylor case, to wishing President Donald Trump well after he contracted COVID-19.

On Wednesday, they projected the image of Kamala Harris in response to her vice-Presidential Debate with Mike Pence.

"We didn’t expect it to be an every night thing, but except for rain, we’ve put it up every night since then.

In this way, the couple says they are letting their voices silently be heard by letting the images do all the talking.

“We’re just causing a little bit of good trouble, and we just want to show our girls that it’s worth causing trouble, it’s worth going through a little bit of hassle to convey your message.”

If you would like to continue to follow the messages they put on their homes, click HERE.

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