The devil may be in the details, as the saying goes, but God figures prominently in a dispute between a Flanders resident and Riverhead Town officials.
In May, Marie Tooker, 52, painted “I Love You God Thank You” in large black letters on the side of a white trailer at her farm property on Middle Country Road in Calverton. In July, town code enforcement officials issued violations to Tooker, saying the trailer violates regulations governing the storage of junked and/or unregistered motor vehicles.
Tooker attended an Aug. 1 town board meeting and questioned why the tickets were issued. Several town board members told her they felt the sign was “inappropriate.”
“The trailer itself is an eyesore,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “I love the sign, I love what it says . . . but at the same time, as a town supervisor, we don’t want the entrance to the Town of Riverhead to be vacant, abandoned trailers.”
According to Chapter 289 of the town rules on Vehicles, Traffic and Parking Regulations (for Junked, Abandoned and Unregistered Vehicles), “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to store or place or cause or permit to be stored or placed a junked and/or unregistered motor vehicle or part or piece thereof on any property within the Town of Riverhead” unless certain criteria are met, such as on “premises legally used, operated and located for a junkyard” or “in a completely enclosed building.”
Tooker, who describes herself as an “extremely spiritual, God-driven person,” said she reconciled with her father — Salvatore Guerrera, 78, of Manorville — earlier this year over a property dispute and was moved to paint the sign as a token of gratitude.
“My first heartfelt feeling was I had to thank God, and let people know that God still exists, and we have to keep our faith,” Tooker said last week.
She said visitors have expressed positive feedback about the sign.
“From everywhere, people stop, they turn around, they pull in, they hang out, some have lunch, a lot of people sit there and pray to God,” Tooker said. “A lot of people stop . . . and tell me ‘God Bless You’ and ‘It’s about time that someone said thank you out loud to God’ and all kinds of wonderful things.”
Code enforcement officials did not return calls Wednesday for comment.
Tooker said she plans to keep the sign up and will consider taking legal action against the town over her First Amendment rights.