By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
As community leaders push tourism and economics into the limelight, a zoning law debate stirs: Remax's , located on the south wall of Discount Liquor at 1010 9th St., may have to be removed.
Remax received a letter from Crescent City officials saying that the wall art is considered a business sign because it includes the Remax logo.
"We did not get the permits ahead of time," Remax co-owner Casie Walthers said. "We simply thought it was a mural to beautify the community. We sell Del Norte County to the community, so the more beautiful it looks the easier it is to sell."
Will Caplinger, city planner and economic development specialist, understands some of the wall art legalities.
"Unfortunately, this happens a lot when people do not get permits," Caplinger said. "We want to make sure that businesses are successful, but we want them to comply with zoning codes."
The city views the wall art as a business advertisement because it has commercial words or logos, its large size and its location off the property owner's site.
"It's like having a Nike swoosh (logo) on the side of your building," City Attorney Thomas French said.
He added that city ordinances prevent businesses from having commercial text on a building, unless it complies with other ordinances regarding business signage.
Rose Peasley, another co-owner of Remax, said that the boats pictured in the wall art on Second Street and U.S. Hwy. 101 have names on them, and if they take the Remax logo off, then the boat names should be removed as well.
The wall art resides on a building and property that Remax does not own.
"It is illegal to have a sign off their property," Caplinger said.
Plans are in the works to "get rid of off-site signs," he said. These plans will become city policy.
The general plan was last updated in 2001 with Caplinger's zoning law amendments allowing for mixed residential and commercial zones downtown, such as living quarters above businesses. This increased the downtown residential population.
Signage is "considered visual clutter" for those residents, he said. The city Planning Commission is "regulating advertising. It is different from free speech. They regulate how and where it can be done."
Remax's wall art also violates the city's allowed square footage, because it is larger than the city allotment, he said.
Even with the violations, Caplinger said of murals, "We like to see big ones, the more murals the better."
He suggests that Remax apply through a "process as a variance that allows owners some relief from restrictions."
To do this, the property must have "unusual or special circumstances," but "it is impossible, because of the size and location."
If Remax's owners apply for a variance, it would have to be on their property and comply with the city's general plan standards.
"The only way it can stay is as a mural passed by the architectural review committee," Caplinger said.
The wall art would need to comply with the committee's themes outlined in the general plan. The themes include redwoods, seaport village and historical nature of Crescent City.
"Some of the (zoning law) definitions are not as clear as they could be. Some aspects of the code may or may not be constitutional," Caplinger said.
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