Mu­ral law passes by 5-2 vote

Civic groups claim re­stric­tions may hin­der in­stalling mu­rals

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » De­spite a last-minute change of heart by Coun­cil­man Joe Kirk­land, the bor­ough coun­cil moved ahead Tues­day night with the adop­tion of new rules gov­ern­ing mu­rals.

Kirk­land, who had pre­vi­ous sup­ported the rules, said he had his mind changed by pub­lic com­ments made dur­ing the last few months of de­lib­er­a­tions.

“I just feel that some­where along the line, there will be some pro­ject that we want and we’re going to lose it be­cause in Pottstown there is just one more con­tract they have to sign,” said Kirk­land who, with Coun­cil­man Den­nis Arms, cast the only two votes

against the new rules.

Kirk­land’s talk of a con­tract has to do with pro­vi­sions in the new rules re­quir­ing the prop­erty owner to take le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the main­te­nance of a mu­ral — a re­quire­ment mem­bers of Pottstown Com­mu­nity Arts said has pre­vented them from mov­ing for­ward with a “Welcome to Pottstown” pro­ject at the cor­ner of King and Manatawny streets.

Marie Haigh, speak­ing for that group Tues­day night be­fore the vote, said they had checked with Phoenixville, Boy­er­town, Malvern and Philadelphia and none of them re­quire the le­gal main­te­nance agree­ment Pottstown now re­quires.

“This is not en­cour­ag­ing, this is dis­cour­ag­ing,” said Haigh.

Matthew Hovey, who was sit­ting in for Bor­ough Solic­i­tor Charles D. Gar­ner Jr., pointed out that the pre­vi­ous law gov­ern­ing mu­rals also con­tained the le­gal re­quire­ment for main­te­nance by the prop­erty owner, and the new or­di­nance sim­ply makes it eas­ier for the bor­ough to step in and main­tain

or cover over a mu­ral if it is not main­tained with­out the lengthy and ex­pen­sive court or­ders that are usu­ally nec­es­sary.

He also noted that the Welcome to Pottstown pro­ject is ac­tu­ally gov­erned by the bor­ough’s sign or­di­nance, not the changed mu­ral or­di­nance, and the sign rules have al­ways had a main­te­nance clause.

Res­i­dent Dar­lene Bainbridge also spoke out against the or­di­nance changes.

“Re­vi­tal­iza­tion starts with the arts,” said Bainbridge. “If you look at any re­vi­tal­iza­tion that has taken place in Pottstown, it has been with things like Steel River Play­house, the Arts Walk, the GoFourth cel­e­bra­tion, it’s been the Beech Street lofts re­vi­tal­iza­tion.”

“To ham­per artis­tic ef­forts by cre­at­ing bu­reau­cratic red tape and legally bind­ing main­te­nance agree­ments, with the bor­ough to en­force it, you will only de­ter fur­ther in­ter­est and in­vestors from im­prov­ing our town,” Bainbridge said.

Some changes were made to the or­di­nance to ac­com­mo­date pre­vi­ous pub­lic com­ments, said As­sis­tant Bor­ough Man­ager Justin Keller. The lan­guage now

makes clear that a third party can be des­ig­nated as hav­ing the le­gal main­te­nance re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Coun­cil­man Ryan Proc­sal, said “we have no de­sire to stomp on the arts,” and said his ini­tial sup­port for the changes was to spare artists the $600 fee to apply for the con­di­tional use ap­proval.

And Coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Sh­eryl Miller noted that “there is art going up all over High Street right now” that is the re­sult of prop­erty own­ers tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­te­nance of the art.

“The main­te­nance clause is pro­tect tax­pay­ers,” said Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Dan We­and.

Codes work­ers tak­ing care of prop­er­ties own­ers will not is al­ready al­most too much work for them, said Miller. “They can’t keep up now. We don’t want to add paint­ing to their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

“We should not be get­ting in­volved in an agree­ment be­tween a prop­erty owner and an artists,” said Arms.

The pas­sage of the or­di­nance will al­low a planned mu­ral for the wall of the for­mer Pub­lic Works Garage on Beech Street by Cul­tural Cen­tro Lati­nos Unidos to move for­ward.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

A ren­der­ing of the “Welcome to Pottstown” sign which or­ga­niz­ers say is be­ing pre­vented by re­stric­tions in a new mu­ral or­di­nance.

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