If octopus mural is sign as well as art it still must go

The City Council has no choice but to follow the law regarding what signs are and are not allowed.

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Is the huge mural of an octopus peeking over a castle painted on the wall above the Inland Octopus toy store on Main Street art?

Absolutely.

But is it also a sign?

The answer to the question will determine whether Inland Octopus owner Bob Catsiff will be allowed to leave the 20-feet-by-30-feet mural in place.

The city's ordinance on downtown signs prohibits those over 150 square feet. The octopus mural is estimated to be in the 600-square-feet range.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson has concluded that, based on the city sign ordinance, the mural is legally a sign. Donaldson's analysis is likely correct.

Just a few doors to the east of Inland Octopus, Sapolil Cellars has a painting across the front of its Main Street tasting room. It is clearly a sign - albeit a very artistic sign.

The major difference between the Sapolil's painting and the Inland Octopus' mural is size. Sapolil's is modest in size while the Inland Octopus' piece is gigantic. The other difference is that Sapolil's artwork contains its name within a logo while the toy store's has only an octopus. Still, many business signs rely on pictures (art?) to convey their message.

This issue will be looked at - literally - from every possible angle. The City Council will be taking public comment at an upcoming meeting. Council members and city officials will also be looking at other aspects of the issue.

In the end, the mural could be judged an artistic sign or simply an art piece.

But this determination will have nothing to do with the quality of the painting. Everyone agrees it is art. And it appears most think it is pretty good art. Some think it's downright fantastic.

Again, the quality of the art does not matter. All that matters is if it is a sign or not a sign.

Frankly, it would be easier politically - at least in the short run - for Council members to look the other way and ignore the ordinance.

Yet, in the long run that could alter the look and feel of downtown.

Councilman Dominick Elia was on the mark when he said this isn't a matter of picking on a local business. It's a matter of adhering to the laws.

This is about being consistent and fair to all.

Another downtown business owner recently requested an electronic reader board on the outside of his establishment. But electronic signs are prohibited in the downtown area, so the request - as it should be - was denied.

Inland Octopus is a great store and an asset to downtown and, frankly, the entire community. Nevertheless, Inland Octopus has to be treated like every other downtown business.

The issue - the only issue - is whether the giant mural is also a sign. If it is a sign, it must go. The City Council has no choice but to follow the law.

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