Walla Walla toy store owner: Octopus to stay

Bob Catsiff says he has retained a lawyer to help fight a civil violation issued by the city.

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WALLA WALLA -- The owner of Main Street toy store Inland Octopus said this morning the painted purple octopus above his downtown business will stay put.

Bob Catsiff said he has retained legal representation in defense of the civil violation notice he was served last week over his massive mollusk mural. Catsiff declined to identify his attorney or to speak further on the matter.

The retention of an attorney is the latest step in the controversy over the enormous mural painted on the building he leases from property owner Mike May over Labor Day weekend.

City officials believe the estimated 550-square-foot painting by artist Aaron Randall qualifies as a sign and violates the legal size limitations allowed by the city code. The peeking purple octopus -- a symbol of the store in previous advertisements and a representation of the name of the 5-year-old business -- looks over castle walls with a rainbow overhead in the mural.

But Catsiff said the painting is a work of art, not a sign. He believes the code is vague in its definition of a sign and plans to contest the city's request to remove the painting.

The legal step is also intended to contest monetary penalties levied from the city. In the civil violation notice served to Catsiff last Thursday, acting City Manager Tim McCarty said Catsiff will be fined $100 every day that the mural remains on the front of the store. Catsiff must also pay 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.

Catsiff 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 the September holiday weekend.

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

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