Historic murals could adorn buildings

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Bainbridge City Council has opened up the possibility for the painting of historical outdoor murals with city limits.

The city of Colquitt, Ga., 20 miles north of Bainbridge on U.S. 27, is home to several high-quality murals reflecting the rural, farm-centered past of Southwest Georgia. The small city even hosted the international mural art festival in 2010. The city of Dothan, Ala., has numerous murals, including one about the history of Fort Scott that depicts Decatur County’s own Jack Wingate.

But there was nothing in the Bainbridge zoning ordinance that specifically addressed murals, City Planner Dustin Dowdy told the council at its Tuesday meeting.

As a result of inquiries about murals, Dowdy requested and the City Council approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that defines murals and allows them as a conditional use in all commercial zoning districts, including downtown.

Before murals could be painted, a formal request would have to be made to the city government. City staff would evaluate the request; mural projects would have to gain the approval of the city’s Planning Commission and the City Council before moving forward.

Requirements for acceptable murals include that they be professionally painted with appropriate materials, reflect a period of historical relevance and be adequately maintained. Murals should not serve as an advertisement for an adjacent business—in which case they would violate the sign ordinance— but can contain the name of a business as long as they otherwise have historical relevance, Dowdy explained.

“The old Pepsi sign on Bob Henderson’s store [on South West Street] could be considered a mural,” Dowdy said. “It reflects a historic period and is the kind of mural I think people would enjoy having around town.”

Dowdy added city staff would ask to look at an artist’s rendering of any proposed mural before the larger painting could be done.

Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer asked how the city would enforce the maintenance of the mural’s quality as they age. Palmer said that in her opinion, there are some buildings in the city that are supposed to be kept in good shape under zoning requirements but are not.

Dowdy said he believed the best way to enforce quality is for multiple groups of city officials to evaluate each application and make judgments on a case-by-case basis.