2014 | Business

After Complaint, County Asks Bethesda Shop to Remove Giant Skateboard

The owners consider the skateboard public art, but the county says the 'sign' lacks a permit.

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Bethesda Scooters and Boards owner Kaare Wieneke stands under the large skateboard he installed above his store.

Andrew Metcalf

A Bethesda business may have to remove a giant blue skateboard hanging outside its Fairmont Avenue skate and scooter shop after the county threatened fines if it didn’t.

Kaare Wieneke and Tyson Plumbtree, the owners of Bethesda Scooters and Boards, said they received a violation notice this month informing them they’d have to obtain a permit or remove the skateboard by May 10. Specifically, the notice says the skateboard is considered a sign and that it requires a permit. The business faces one or more $500 fines for not complying.

Frank DeLange, the county zoning investigator who issued the violation, said the zoning department was made aware of the skateboard after someone filed a complaint. “We don’t ride around looking for things, but someone filed a formal inquiry with our office, so we were obligated to look at it,” DeLange said.

The owners said they have not received any complaints about the skateboard.

Wieneke admits he never sought county approval before installing the approximately 70 pound, 8-foot-long blue skateboard on the storefront. He considers the skateboard to be art, not a sign. “It doesn’t even have our name on it,” Wieneke said.

DeLange said that because the skateboard is a symbol of a product they sell, it’s considered advertising and therefore a sign, which requires a permit. He said the owners can attempt to obtain a permit, but he’s not sure it would be approved because it may be too large for the building.

Wieneke and Plumbtree said hundreds of people have taken pictures under the skateboard since it was installed in March. They said they would be willing to remove the skateboard if the town builds a skate park in Bethesda or if the community wants them to take it down. Otherwise, they plan to contest any fines they receive in court.

“I want to raise awareness that kids in Bethesda don’t have a skate park,” Wieneke said.

The county has a number of restrictions on signs, including where they can be placed and how large they can be, and measures to make sure they’re safe.

Wieneke said the skateboard was built to withstand hurricane-force winds, but that he’s now bringing in a structural engineer to look at the sign to ensure that it’s safe. “That way, I have everything in line if I try to get it approved,” Wieneke added. The sign was constructed out of plastic foam and then encased in a layer of concrete and covered in sparkly blue paint, Wieneke said. He said he spent $600 on the paint alone.

DeLange said the skateboard isn’t a safety issue.

Bethesda Scooter and Boards opened at its Woodmont Triangle location last spring after getting its start as a pop-up store across the street.