The sign was meant to put a smile on the face of passing motorists: “Keep Calm and Love Clintonville.”
But the city of Columbus says it doesn’t meet code and might have to come down.
Bill Dargusch, of local developer Metropolitan Partners, owns the building at 4041 N. High St. He said he placed the sign – based on a meme that lampoons a British World War II-era public-safety poster – on the north side of the building about three years ago. It’s about 12 square feet; 10 square feet is allowed by city code.
“It’s just a simple piece of art,” Dargusch said.
Anthony Celebrezze, spokesman for the department of zoning and building services, said the code-enforcement department merely was reacting to a community complaint, not actively seeking out the violation.
On June 18, Dargusch will appeal a citation by the city’s graphics commission to leave it up. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Dargusch must seek a variance if he wants the message to stay, Celebrezze said.
“He may be able to make an argument that it’s artwork because it doesn’t promote any products or services in the building,” Celebrezze said.
Dargusch said the building is four stories tall and the sign is relatively small and benign.
“It was meant to be a little chuckle when you’re sitting at the stoplight when you look up,” he said.
It’s not the first time Clintonville has been at the center of a battle between the city and a whimsical sign.
In March 2018, a kangaroo-crossing sign erected by a Clinton Heights Avenue homeowner disappeared after a local radio reporter called the city to ask about its origins. The sign was in the right of way but had been there for years.
Its removal sparked tongue-in-cheek outrage across the neighborhood, with “Never Forget” placards featuring the sign appearing on area streets.
Eventually, a compromise was reached, and in May, the sign was installed permanently at nearby Clinton Elementary School after being returned to its owner.
The city also cut short some neighborhood fun in fall 2016, when a “yarn-bombed” fence and pole at High Street and Overbook Drive were returned to their utilitarian state without warning. Neighborhood residents protested, but city leaders said fences and poles in the public right of way cannot be decorated.
The removal of the yarn also was the result of a complaint from a resident, the city said.