Vermont man puts up giant middle finger amid feud with town over building permit

A Vermont man feuding with local officials over repeated denials for a building permit made his fury known in the form an illuminated 700-pound wooden middle finger.

Ted Pelkey, 54, a business owner, told that the Development Review Board of Westford has repeatedly denied his request for a building permit to construct an 8,000 square-foot garage on his property.

“I’ve been put through the wringer by these people, and it’s just not right,” he said. “I’m not trying to cause hate and animosity to the people who live in that town, because there’s very good people in that town.”

Officials said the proposal doesn’t meet the town’s standards, but Pelkey thinks they’re biased against him.

“I was sitting at a bar and said to my wife, ‘Hey, I want to get a statue made of a middle finger, and I’m going to put it up on the lawn,'” he told in an interview.


Commissioning the structure – which was completed Nov. 30 and sits atop a 16-foot pole on his front lawn - costs $4,000, Pelkey said, adding he initially expected to be forced to take it down.

Billboards are banned in Vermont, but because the giant middle finger sculpture isn't being used as an advertising tool, it can stay, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

“Although the structure is visible from a state highway, it is outside of the State Right of Way and not within our jurisdiction,” Jacqui DeMen, a spokeswoman for the agency, told in an email. “The structure does not meet the statutory definition of ‘sign’ and thus can’t be regulated under the Vermont Billboard Law.”

Instead, the finger is considered public art.

Pelkey has tried to get approval to build the garage on his property for over a decade to possibly work out of instead of driving 25 miles each way to the repair shop he runs with his son.

“You can get out of bed in the morning, take your coffee, walk across the driveway, and go to work,” he said. “What would you want to do?”

Pelkey's most recent application was denied because it lacked information about building purpose and lighting.

He is appealing the decision.