SANTA ROSA BEACH — No sooner had Magistrate Hayward Dykes ordered Marvin Peavy to pay $1,269 for failing to comply with a code enforcement decree that he remove a huge "Trump Won" banner from his 30A property than a group of his deep-pocketed neighbors were scrambling to cover the cost of his fine.
His continuing defiance of local government regulations has earned Peavy and his wife Paige something of a celebrity status in deeply conservative Walton County.
"The support here, really from all over the country, has been just unreal," Paige Peavy said. "It's freedom of speech, that's what we're fighting for."
As the couple waited Wednesday in the front row of a county meeting room for the case of their failing to comply with an order to remove the banner to be heard, several of the many well-wishers in attendance stopped to shake hands, offer hugs or whisper words of encouragement.
Code enforcement issue becomes rallying point: 'Here for one thing: my freedom of speech': 30A homeowner remains defiant on pro-Trump banners
Home owner defies county code enforcement: 'Not going to take it down': 30A property owner hangs 'Trump Won' banner on home despite fines
Moving forward, the battle of the banner will be waged on a different front. Peavy attorney Robbie Sickler confirmed following Wednesday's code enforcement hearing that he would appeal Dykes' ruling that Peavy has failed to comply with a county ordinance to the Circuit Court.
Fines of $50 will continued to be assessed for each day the "Trump Won" banner remains hanging from the fourth floor balcony of Peavy's home, Dykes said in making his ruling.
The massive "Trump Won" banner is now accompanied by another of the same size, this one reading "Let's Go Brandon," a suddenly popular sneaky disparagement of President Joe Biden. It was decided at Wednesday's hearing that no additional penalties would be assessed against Peavy for the second banner, though it too has been ordered removed.
Like the vast majority of Walton County homeowners, Peavy, a Georgia real estate and property management businessman who lives four days of each week in the multiple-story, 6,770-square-foot home from which the banner is hung, is a die-hard Republican and Donald Trump advocate.
He told a Northwest Florida Daily News reporter in October, when the banner issue first came to a head, that he originally had been approached by a Walton County Code Enforcement officer in January. That officer had raised an issue over what was then a "Trump 2020" banner being flown more than a month after the November presidential election had been conducted.
Peavy took down the original sign after Biden was inaugurated, but two months later draped the "Trump Won" banner from his balcony. He said he was asked to remove the second banner in June.
The case originally went before Dykes, a special magistrate, in mid-October, and Peavy was found to be in violation of the signage provisions established for County Road 30A, which is designated as a scenic corridor. He was ordered to remove the sign by Oct. 25 or have the $50 daily fine assessed against him.
null"Fifty dollars a day ain't a damn thing to me," Peavy told a reporter after the hearing. "I'm not going to take it down."
The $1,269 bill accrued as of Wednesday includes 23 days worth of fines and a $119 administrative fee, Code Enforcement Officer Charles Cronin said at Wednesday's meeting.
Sickler made it clear Wednesday that he will argue in Circuit Court the sign ordinance the Code Enforcement Division is using to sanction Peavy is selectively enforced. He took particular issue with Cronin's testimony that the ordinance is "complaint driven"
"That is the very definition of selective enforcement, they're not working based on an ordinance, they're working based on who files a complaint," Sickler told Dykes. "That creates an adversarial environment that pits neighbor against neighbor."
Sickler also contends the sign ordinance violates First Amendment rights of free speech. That, Paige Peavy said, is what she believes is at the core of her family's decision to defy Walton County and the reason so many have taken their side in the issue.
"We're in a mess right now in this country. People are grasping to hold onto their freedoms," she said. "That's why they're supporting us."
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Walton County fight to remove "Trump Won" banner is headed to Circuit Court