Last weekend, Greensboro closed down Davie Street to allow Greensboro artist Phillip Marsh to paint the first street mural as part of Creative Greensboro’s Street Mural Program.
It appears that the City Council is in full support of this program, to put art directly on city streets – in this case painting “One Love” on Davie Street beside Center City Park.
But it also appears that the City Council overlooked one of the multitude of ordinances City Councils have passed over the years.
Sec. 26-19 of the City Code of Ordinances states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to write, paint or place upon any of the streets or sidewalks of the city any words, letters, numbers, pictures or advertisements of any kind. This subsection shall not apply to official traffic devices placed there by local authorities.”
The ordinance continues with an exception for “painting of house numbers on street curbs. To do so first you as a property owner and taxpayer must apply for a permit. And the numbers must meet the following conditions:
“(1) Only the house number, not the complete street address may be painted.
(2) The numbers shall not exceed four (4) inches in height.
(3) The numbers must be painted by the use of a template, no freehand lettering being allowed.
(4) The type of numbers shall be Gothic (single-stroke and vertical) and may not be Old English, Old Roman or anything other than numerical numbers.
(5) The paint shall be an approved durable paint and shall be restricted to black and white colors only.”
However, it appears that if the city decides to allow artists to paint the street, the ordinance can be ignored, or at least in this case was ignored.
Greensboro Chief Creative Economy Officer Ryan Deal said that Creative Greensboro worked with the city manager’s office to develop the Street Mural Program and that the City Council was aware of the program but didn’t take any official action.
Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson said, “As the owner of the street we have the right to allow it.”
Wilson said that the process was permitted by the city in a similar fashion to how special events are permitted.
City Councilmember Justin Outling said, “I did not realize there was an ordinance actually prohibiting it.”
He said if the ordinance did apply then “It is appropriate for the city to take action to allow it.”
He added, “My sense is that there is more than sufficient support on council to approve it.”
City Attorney Chuck Watts said that he would check out the ordinance, but if there was not an offended party he didn’t think it was a problem.