Chagrin Falls' VAC mural center of big controversy

5:37 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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Right from the beginning I want to be clear that I covered Chagrin Falls for 12 years as a reporter for Sun Newspapers and I was also on the board of the Valley Art Center for several years. I'm also a resident.

There have been some interesting and unusual Chagrin Falls stories I've covered over the years but I must say this one has me shaking my head. When is a sign not a sign but a mural? Take a look at the accompanying picture as it rotates through the story.

The VAC has been told told by Chagrin Falls' Village Administrator Ben Himes to remove a half-finished mural from the side of the building because it violates the zoning code.

So I stopped by the VAC Tuesday morning and took a look for myself to see what all the uproar was about.

Huh?

Code Sec. 1107.19 says a "...a sign is considered, any visual communication designed to be seen from an outdoor location and used to convey a message."

OK, I get it. You can't have unauthorized signs popping up on buildings willy-nilly. There's a process that must be followed and ordinances are there for a reason.

But who could think that a mural was a sign of any kind unless it said "Eat at Joes: Burgers, fries and drinks are on special on Fridays" or ""Come inside for art classes so you can learn to paint like this."

By the way, if you stand in the front of Riverside Park on Main Street and look at the south side of the Chagrin Hardware Store, you will see the faint remnants of a sign that had been painted there eons ago.

That sign was definitely selling something but was probably done before there was a sign ordinance. But I digress.

But in no way do I see this VAC mural -- and it IS a mural -- delivering any kind of a "message" other than "Hey, this wall is painted now."

The Valley Art Center building has never looked better on the outside. The streetside facade is muted, gorgeous and classy. The mural is painted on the east side of the building and faces the parking lot.

I really don't see why everyone has their knickers in a twist or their panties in a bunch over this. It's not a sign, it's a piece of artwork.

For now it is a stalemate -- no one is painting over the mural and no further work on the mural is being done.

VAC officials say they will be asking the Board of Zoning Appeals at its Oct. 22 meeting to allow the mural to be finished and remain.

My advice is: Go take a look at the sign for yourself and decide if you think it is a sign or a mural. Then let the BZA members know what you think. 

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