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All 44 homes in a North Carolina subdivision will be required to fly an American flag

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There's a new housing development in North Carolina that promises to blend patriotism with freedom. Its founder calls it a movement. It's a planned community for people 55 and up that's named 1776. Lisa Worf from member station WFAE in Charlotte paid a visit.

LISA WORF, BYLINE: Constitution Lane doesn't look like much now - just an asphalt road surrounded by vacant lots 15 miles west of Charlotte. But developer Brock Fankhauser has a vision.

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BROCK FANKHAUSER: At 1776, our goal is to bring patriotism to the front porch of housing and the communities that we develop henceforth.

WORF: He made that declaration last month at a launch party captured in a highlight video. The term 1776 refers to the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, but it's also been appropriated in recent years by people on the far right.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FANKHAUSER: My purpose is to unite citizens and to do so under the broadest of commonalities, and that is our great nation.

WORF: All 44 homes will be required to fly an American flag.

FANKHAUSER: We ask each 1776 buyer to pledge allegiance to the United States. We ask them to affirm that the Constitution is the founding document of the United States.

WORF: Buyers don't have to take actual oaths. They're just noted in the community's covenants. Its preamble reads like a best-of patriotic hits collection cut and pasted together with tweaks like, we the people of 1776 at Gastonia. The Covenant includes the flag-flying requirement.

HARMONY TAYLOR: I've never seen anything that has said affirmatively, you have to make a particular type of speech.

WORF: That's Harmony Taylor, a Charlotte lawyer who specializes in real estate law. She says the stipulation to fly an American flag is likely untested territory in North Carolina.

TAYLOR: In today's political climate, I think you may have some individuals who would see a requirement that you exhibit your patriotism in a particular way would be unusual and potentially raise some question about the enforceability of those covenants.

WORF: Enforcing the flag-flying is a topic of conversation among three men working on pipes next to the 1776 construction site. Victor Pearce, Daion Brown and James Denza wondered what would happen if residents don't remember.

VICTOR PEARCE: You know, it's - and they older folks. They might...

DAION BROWN: Yeah.

PEARCE: ...Forget.

BROWN: Might forget.

PEARCE: So what does that mean for the person that forgets? Like, that's what I want to know.

BROWN: Do I got to get put out if I don't fly it?

JAMES DENZA: That's the way I'm looking at it...

BROWN: Right.

DENZA: ...Because, I mean, like, if it's an HOA thing, they'd be like, hey; they ain't flying the flag. Get 'em (ph). Get 'em.

BROWN: Get 'em. Get 'em.

WORF: The flags will actually fly at all times. Since they'll be illuminated, according to federal guidelines, they can remain up overnight and in the rain. Each flag will be supplied by the homeowners association. Fankhauser says enforcement won't be a problem.

FANKHAUSER: I think the people who buy in our neighborhoods will take their covenants seriously.

WORF: Inspiration for 1776, Fankhauser says, came from, well, Margaritaville.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARGARITAVILLE")

JIMMY BUFFETT: (Singing) Nibbling on sponge cake, watching the sun bake.

WORF: Jimmy Buffett lent the name of his song to a chain of retirement communities for seniors bonded by margaritas, sunshine and pools. Themed retirement communities have become popular. They range from golf resorts to arts enclaves. Fankhauser thought his theme could work, too. He contributed to President Trump's 2020 campaign but says 1776 is not political. Ida Aldred, however, says she knows exactly to whom 1776 is marketed - conservatives like her.

IDA ALDRED: Absolutely I would live there - absolutely. I believe that it doesn't hurt showing your patriotism.

WORF: Aldred was visiting her father-in-law, Mark Warshawsky, in the neighborhood next door to 1776. He was shaking his head at the flag-flying requirement. No one is going to make him fly a flag.

Well, I just want to point out that your T-shirt says, land of the free, home of the brave, with a flag.

MARK WARSHAWSKY: That means I don't have to put up the flag if I don't want to.

WORF: The homes sell for $450,000 and up, with one going to a veteran through Homes for Heroes. Sales started last week. So far, Fankhauser says he's just gotten lots of inquiries. For NPR News, I'm Lisa Worf in Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.

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