When is a 4-foot bone not a bone?

When is a 4-foot bone not a bone?

Owners of a local pet food store are having fun with a now-resolved issue that nearly became another bone of contention between it and Lewisville.

Last month, Carrie Hansley, who along with her husband, Michael, owns Aristopets, received a letter from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Inspections Division saying that an oversize blue bone protruding from the front yard violated the town’s sign ordinance. Aristopets specializes in raw and organic pet food and treats.

The town considered the bone a form of advertising. The store at 6606 Shallowford Road already has one sign, and any additional sign in front of a business is a violation that could lead to fines and civil action.

The Hansleys view the 4-foot foam bone as a piece of art, in some ways no different than the Statue of Liberty replica at nearby Liberty Restaurant.

Upset by the letter, the Hansleys took a 21st century approach to air their grievances, posting on the store’s Facebook page that the town wants them to “take down our art.” The post drew about 70 comments of support and about 10,000 views.

“I’m normally not confrontational, and I finally said, ‘This is enough,’” Carrie Hansley said.

Four days after that post, the Hansleys received a letter from the inspections division that the town had “reconsidered the interpretation of the zoning ordinance and therefore is withdrawing that particular violation.”

Bo Houff, the town attorney for Lewisville, acknowledged the reaction to the Facebook post.

“I was asked to look at it again,” Houff said of the violation. “I think when people saw the bone they thought, ‘Hey, why does the Statue of Liberty get to stay and the bone has to go?’”

In originally evaluating whether the bone violated the sign ordinance, Houff said he believed it was put there to draw attention to the business, making it a sign.

“I took a further look and think a reasonable argument can be made that it is art for art’s sake,” said Houff, who then asked the inspections division to withdraw the violation notice.

Relieved with the result, the Hansleys and their store manager, Heather Persinger, are asking people to post selfies with the bone, with the most creative photographer winning a bag of pet treats and a toy.

Strained relationship

The contest is an attempt by the Hansleys to inject a little levity into a relationship that has become strained at times.

The town and the Hansleys have gone back and forth on several issues concerning the business that they opened in the fall of 2014. Michael Hansley is a Lewisville native who owns two other businesses in town.

A black chain-link fence around the business had to be taken down a few days after it was installed because it violated the town ordinance, which said that fences must be made of rock or wood.

The Hansleys said a town official told them that the black chain-link fence was acceptable under the town’s ordinance. Town Manager Hank Perkins denied that a staff member made such a statement.

The Hansleys said they relied on the staff member’s word and did not carefully read the town’s ordinances on fencing.

They took down the $3,000 fence but left the fence posts, with the intention of building a fence that would comply. That addition, along with a plan to add a second story to a building behind the pet food store, required the Hansleys to apply for a site plan amendment.

The town’s planning board recommended approval of the new site plan but asked the Hansleys to add gates to a dumpster enclosure behind the store.

The Hansleys initially had been given conflicting information on whether such gates were required.

In March, the Lewisville Town Council decided to continue the site plan request, saying it would reconsider the request six months from the date that the Hansleys screen the dumpster with gates, pull up the existing fence posts and remove trash from around the dumpster area.

By Lisa O’Donnell Winston-Salem Journal