Galveston threatens fines if business owner keeps flying kites

GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) -- It's a fight over flying kites in Galveston. The owner of a kite shop has been warned by city officials that he is breaking city code by flying kites near his business and is threatening to fine him.

A kite blowing freely in the Galveston sun is illegal. Stephen Newberry was breaking the law with our camera rolling.

"More than silly," he said. "It's very odd."

The bright kites have become a staple of the coastal community ever since Newberry opened Kites Unlimited 30 years ago.

But on the store's busiest day of year - the Fourth of July - Newberry was served.

This is a flag violation warning. The next time police show up, Newberry could face a fine up to $2,000 per day.

"It doesn't make sense that they would be targeting us, a business that's been here for thirty years a business that has worked with the city during kite festivals, a business that has otherwise an asset to the city," said Newberry.

Galveston City Council passed a sign ordinance in March, restricting businesses from putting large signs out front. And yes -- kites count as signs.

"Any signage that's particularly used for advertisements and things of that nature would fall under the category of a sign," City of Galveston Spokesperson Kala McCain explained.

The idea is to make the Seawall more uniform without gaudy signs distracting from the beauty of the water. But what if your business is built on impulse shopping, the kind that relies on advertising to lure in beach-goers?

"We're really setting a precedent for what we want Galveston to be and we really think it can have a positive impact through these different initiatives brought by city council," said McCain.

We asked Newberry if he's going to fight the ordinance.

"Oh yeah, I have to," he said. "I mean, it's the only way I can stay in business. If we're not allowed to do what we've been doing for thirty years, we would have to close."
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