The City of New Smyrna Beach, a self proclaimed art town, is currently reviewing an ordinance that would provide regulation on current and future murals.
The proposed ordinance (ordinance no. 13-22, first reading on April 26, 2022) creates a definition for murals, non-residential primary structures, and residential primary structures. The intent of the ordinance is that art or graphics “be permitted within certain non-residential zoning districts of the City to aesthetically enhance otherwise blank walls and building side and rear wall.”
Those seeking to have a mural placed on their building will now file for a permit, with the appropriate $50 application fee of course, with the city Department of Development Services. The city has created a listing of requirements, including size limits for art based upon wall size. Advertising and written messages are not permitted. Current murals will be granted a five year window to be in compliance with new guidelines (if passed).
While I agree that there does need to be a set of approved guidelines for murals and public art, it appears that city staff did not include the art or business community when drawing up the proposed ordinance. From my research it appears they have only reviewed guidelines from other local governments. Who those local governments are is not stated in agenda packet.
If staff and the city Planning and Zoning Board had worked with interested local parties they would have found out that many of the murals currently in place, and enjoyed by thousands of visitors and residents, do not meet the proposed guidelines. As Jane’s Art Center has posted on Facebook , this ordinance may impact current art. It appears no exceptions have been made for artist signatures. Is that considered a written message and thus not allowed? The beloved shark mural on the side of the HUB on Canal will need to undergo extensive work to be in compliance if the proposed ordinance passes.
Ordinance 13-22 had been on the agenda for the May 10, 2022 city commission meeting but was pulled. Public comments appear to have been allowed however.
For art in public places enthusiasts this is an issue that we need to keep our eyes on. Not living in New Smyrna Beach I don’t have a feel for what individual commissioners may be thinking on this. Common sense regulation will help keep murals that are negative or detrimental to the city image from being created. Regulation will also mandate that murals be maintained and allow for code violations should they fall into disrepair. It does however become a fine line between property rights, free speech, and what may be best for the larger community. Bringing stakeholders to the table will help create the best ordinance possible and will provide for reasonable grandfathering in of existing murals.
Please click the link below to read the current ordinance as posted on the April 26, 2022 City of New Smyrna Beach city commission meeting agenda.