Hilliard Northwest News

Hilliard BZA rejects sunflower mural appeal

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Hilliard's Board of Zoning Appeals voted 6-1 Thursday night to deny an appeal to keep a hand-painted mural of a sunflower on the side of a couple's garage.

"I'll have to think about it, what I'm going to do," mural artist Kelley Daniel said after the decision. "I'm going to consider my options. It's really too bad for Hilliard. It's an opportunity for them to have public art, and geez, that's the city of Hilliard flower."

"I'm kind of surprised by this. I don't think this was the brightest move," said her husband, Ed Daniel.

They have 30 days to appeal the decision to Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

"We really have sort of committed to taking it as far as we can," Ed Daniel said. "We've got some backup plans, some creative solutions. We have a lot of support, and a lot of friends."

Around 60 people filled the Hilliard Municipal Building for what one observer said was the biggest turnout he'd seen for a BZA meeting. Several audience members held plastic sunflowers and one couple wore tie-dyed sunflower T-shirts. They applauded those who spoke in support of the mural, and hooted and hissed at some of the officials' comments.

The 90-minute hearing began with the case of a mobile produce stand receiving permission to set up at 3975 Main St. and 4247 Avery Road. The case of the Daniel residence at 5436 Madison St. then took up the remainder of the meeting.

"Staff finds that the site is in violation of the exterior painting section of the Old Hilliard Design Guide," said city planner John Talentino, showing a photo of the mural that remained on view as the case was discussed. "The garage as painted is in violation of the city's codified ordinances. Staff recommends that the decision of the assistant zoning enforcement officer be upheld and that the appeal be denied."

"Why didn't I receive a written stop work order? Wouldn't that have been proper procedure? Since I didn't get one, I kept painting," Kelley Daniel said.

Board member Charles Boshane asked Daniel if she began painting the mural before discussing it with the city, and she said she did.

Daniel also argued that the guidelines used the voluntary words "should" and "may" instead of the mandatory "shall."

"The violation that I received says garage colors should match those of the house, exterior colors should be subdued, and no more than two colors should be used on old Hilliard buildings. The Old Hilliard guidelines were written for (older) buildings. This was built in the '80s."

Daniel also cited the mural on the Starliner Diner and her First Amendment rights.

Board member Dean Worthington said there were restrictions on the First Amendment and asked Daniel, "Are you saying your mural is consistent with the Old Hilliard guidelines, or that the guidelines are irrelevant? I think that was the idea of the Old Hilliard guidelines was not to allow murals."

"A mural doesn't fit into the Old Hilliard guidelines," Daniel said. "What we need here is a code and some guidelines for artists and murals. It doesn't say that. When John (Talentino) came to my house (in September), he told me to bring in my color palette for approval, which I did, but he also said to continue painting and that we need more of these in Hilliard."

"I don't think I said that," Talentino said.

Attorney Maribeth Deavers, who represented the city, said Ed Daniel was on the Old Hilliard Commission in 2000-01 and enforced guidelines against other property owners.

"Since 1989, these guidelines were used to curtail certain rights of property owners," Deavers said. "Mr. Daniel enforced them himself, and he's here today to ask for an exception."

"It is within my rights as a property owner to have this discussion regardless of my position with the city in the past," Ed Daniel said. "Yes, I did sit on that commission and I did work to uphold those guidelines when they were applicable, however, a situation like this never came before the commission, so I cannot speak about what I would have done and neither can you."

Zoning officer Candy Thomas was called as a witness for the city. She said she began receiving calls on Sept. 4, 2009, about the mural, and went to the residence.

"I asked Ed Daniel to not continue painting. He said he would let his wife Kelley know, but she kind of does what she wants to do," Thomas said.

BZA President Brent Gilmore said, "For the record, there were two neighbors that were opposed. The cart is before the horse. You need to apply for these things, or if you'd like something to be changed about the code, there's a procedure for that, and you're well aware of that. This is where you do something, and hope you get a reaction. That was your interpretation. The city's interpretation is different. That's why we're here."

BZA member Frank Moeller cast the lone yes vote. Nathan Painter, Worthington, Gilmore, James Ervin, Barbara Rushley and Boshane voted no.

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