NAPLES — A not-so-secret Santa is causing a ruckus in the city of Naples.
James Koss, owner of the Back Store, said he was told by code enforcement officers over the weekend that a holiday display in front of his chiropractic supply store, 198 Ninth Street, was in violation of city code.
The reasoning, Koss said, was because city officials believed the backboard — a wooden, seesaw-like contraption made especially for Koss — the 7-foot-tall Santa Claus is anchored to is meant to look like an inversion table he sells in his store.
“That table that we have out there is an outdoor advertising display,” said Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke. “It has nothing to do with Santa. It has to do with the sign and his outdoor advertising display.”
Koss said Roger Jacobsen, the city’s code and harbor manager, came to his store Friday and said by their interpretation of code, the display, or at least the backboard, was in violation because Koss said he believed it was Koss’ “intent to have something out there that is like the inversion table.”
“This is Santa,” Koss said. “I’ve been doing this for two years. This is a piece of wood, (and) I’ve had Santa tilted two seasons before this.”
The table — made for Koss by a carpenter — tilts back and forth, like a teeter-totter. That motion allows the mannequin to either be upright or inverted.
Jacobsen told him to keep the Santa upright, terms Koss said he didn’t agree to.
Jacobsen returned Saturday to find Santa Claus tilted on the table, standing on his head. That’s when Jacobsen said he told Koss they could ask an opinion of the city attorney or go to the code enforcement board for a ruling on what is considered a violation.
“I’m not the judge and jury here,” said Jacobsen, who also said no citations were issued at the time.
Koss said he told Jacobsen to “do whatever you feel you need to do, but Santa is going to be out there.”
City Attorney Bob Pritt said Wednesday that anything “used to attract (people) to the location” is covered under the sign ordinance.
“Generally speaking, those are not allowed,” he said.
Koss said he spoke to Councilwoman Teresa Heitmann, who owns the building, and said she told him there wasn’t anything in the code she could see prohibiting it.
But Heitmann said Tuesday she “supports the city’s code enforcement” staff.
“As far as I’m concerned our city has a standard that we try to adhere to (so) there’s no clutter,” she said.
Heitmann said Koss did not ask for her permission to put up the display, and she hasn’t been contacted by code enforcement about the issue.
Koss said he plans to keep the board out there until he is shown where in the code something like the backboard is prohibited.
“All I know is it’s Santa and it’s Christmas time and I’m having fun,” Koss said.
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna_buzzacco