Auburn Talks Murals

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photo used with permission

BY HANNAH LESTER

HLESTER@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

Scott Cummings, Developmental Services executive director, presented a report to the Auburn City Council Tuesday night from the Mural and Arts Study Committee that was formed in the spring, and the council agreed to pass the recommendations on to the planning commission.

The Mural and Arts Study Committee included Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 3 City Council Member Beth Witten, and Ward 6 Council Member Bob Parsons. It also included Jana Jager and Marcus Marshall, both from the Auburn Planning Commission and Robyn Bridges from Auburn Opelika Tourism, stakeholders, Auburn Parks and Recreation members, representatives from the Jules Collins Smith Museum and from the Montgomery Arts Commission.

The recommendations included objectives:

– Remove murals as a prohibitive sign

– Review and amend as necessary the definition of a mural

– Review the zoning ordinance for other, related definitions that would be linked to murals and signs and consider limitations of murals in single-family residential zones

– Confirm public nuisance and obscenity text regulations would apply to murals and consider a definition for graffiti.

“These are the objectives that the study committee summarized after the meetings and hearing from places like the city of Montgomery, from AO tourism and the museum here in town,” Cummings said. “Also, we studied at least six other municipalities who had addressed murals and community art through their zoning ordinances and also city code through having art commissions.”

Cummings made it clear that the city would not be able to regulate the content of the murals, which is one reason there is a recommendation limiting murals in single-family residential, he said.

There is not an included definition for graffiti in the recommendations.

“Some [consider] graffiti as art, and some communities [have] a designated area for people to paint graffiti as art,” Cummings said. “So, what we settled on is if someone has a piece of property and invites people to paint something on the wall and paint their graffiti on the wall, then that’s their expression, that’s their art. If someone did not invite them and they painted on there then it’s vandalism and trespassing and they could prosecute. Same goes with the city, if we did not invite it. So that’s where we left that.”

The current zoning ordinance designates murals as a ‘sign’, so that would need to be changed, Cummings said.

“They would define a mural as a graphic or work of art that is painted or drawn on an exterior wall and is a representation of a creative idea that is expressed in a form and manner as [to] primarily provide aesthetic enjoyment to the viewer rather than convey a commercial message,” he said. “The key point being commercial message. If it conveys a commercial message, it’s a sign and will be regulated as such.”

So the next step is to send the recommendations to the planning commission, Cummings said, to be voted on during the September meeting.

If the commission approved the recommendations then they would appear before the City Council in October.

Ward 5 Council Member Stephen Dixon mentioned the Bedzzz Express mural that went against city policies, which prompted public outcry. Soon following, the committee was formed.

The mural on the side of that building is currently covered.

“They were denied a variance at the board of zoning adjustment and technically the mural has to go away,” said City Manager Megan Crouch. “Because this is being studied, our ask was, and one of our city attorneys is here, in order to meet the law, the mural couldn’t be visible. So instead of asking the property owner, while this is being studied, to paint over it, we requested that they just keep it covered.”

However, if these recommendations are approved by the commission and council and become law, then the mural could be reviewed to make sure it meets standards, Crouch said.

WARD 4 ELECTION:

The council certified the election of Tyler Adams for the Auburn City Council, Ward 4 seat Tuesday night.

Adams is the only remaining candidate following the opposition’s, Chad Leverette, withdrawal from the race last week.

“Section 11-46-26, Code of Alabama, 1975, as amended, requires that Council adopt a resolution and issue a Certificate of Election to each candidate having no opposition indicating that they are duly elected to their respective positions,” said the city’s e-packet.

Adams is not the only un-contested race. Mayor Ron Anders, Witten and Ward 8 Council Member Tommy Dawson have already been certified, given none had opposition.

For more information on the other wards, visit: www.auburnalabama.org/elections/.

OTHER BUSINESS:

– The council voted to approve a concurrence for the Industrial Development Board of the city of Auburn at 2175 Pumphrey Ave. in the Auburn Industrial Park.

– The council voted to approve a concurrence for Straehle + Hess USA, Inc. for at 284 Enterprise Dr. in the Auburn Technology Park South.

– The council approved a one-time payment for retiree cost-of-living adjustment through the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

– The council approved the naming of an athletic field, Field 9, at Duck Samford Park for Jon Oleinick.

– The council approved a lot transfer for the North Housing Development Corporation – Tucker Heights.

– The council approved a contract with CSX Transportation, Inc. for a preliminary engineering agreement at Webster Road Railroad Crossing for $33,000.

– The council approved a contract with JLD Enterprises LLC for a contract for contractor insurance repair at East Glenn Avenue Repair for more than $31,400.

– The council approved an independent audit with Machen McChesney for $96,000.

– The council approved a temporary shoring and anchoring right-of-way use agreement for The Graduate Hotel with The Robins & Morton Group.

– The council approved a tower crane use agreement with The Robins & Morton Group for The Graduate Hotel.

– The council approved a right-of-way for AuburnBank at 100 N. Gay St.

– The council approved right-of-way and drainage, utility and sanitary sewer easements for Dilworth Development, Inc. for the Spyglass, Phase 1 project near the southern intersection of Yarbrough Farms Boulevard and Titleist Way.

– The council approved the appointment of election officials for the 2022 municipal election.

– The council amended city code for Section 3-70 Business license ordinance.

– The council approved the city’s general obligation warrants, series 2022 for over $62,000 for capital improvements and outstanding warrants.

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