Hearing set on Walla Walla toy shop painting

Hearing Examiner Leland B. Kerr will hear arguments about the contentious issue Thursday.

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WALLA WALLA -- An entanglement over a painting of a giant octopus on a downtown Walla Walla storefront is scheduled to be addressed at an administrative hearing Thursday.

Hearing Examiner Leland B. Kerr will hear arguments from both sides in the dispute between the city of Walla Walla and Inland Octopus owner Bob Catsiff.

The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 15 N. Third Ave., but could be called off if a judge earlier in the day grants a preliminary injunction.

Kerr will determine whether the estimated 550-square-foot painting of an octopus peeking over a castle wall on Catsiff's Main Street storefront violates city code.

City officials say the painting qualifies as a sign and thus violates the legal size limitations allowed by the city code.

Catsiff has maintained the painting is a work of art and therefore not regulated by the sign code. He has also said the municipal sign code is vague and thus enforcement of this particular piece is selective on the city's part.

The toy store owner was served a civil violation notice about a month ago. In its notice, the city said it will charge Catsiff $100 a day for every day the mural is not removed.

Catsiff has also been charged another $300 in fines for failing to obtain permits related to painting the octopus mural on the front of the building at 7 E. Main St., as well as another on the back exterior. He has admitted that he did not seek permits to occupy the right of way or for approval to paint the mural when it was created over Labor Day weekend.

The city has not been collecting the fines pending the outcome of Thursday's hearing.

As part of the quasi-judicial process, Kerr will hear evidence from both sides. He may rule at the time or issue a ruling at a later date. Public testimony will not be taken at the hearing.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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