Excerpt from Capital Gazette:
A piece of paper signals the beginning of the end of a long fight between a businessman and Annapolis officials after a mural was commissioned on one of his buildings downtown.
Gavin Buckley, a Democratic mayoral candidate, and his business partners have filed a Certificate of Approval with the city of Annapolis more than a year after the mural “Agony and Ecstasy Lives Together in Perfect Harmony” was painted on the restaurant Tsunami at 51 West St. The application was received July 28.
Buckley initially resisted city requests to file the application, claiming city code didn’t cover paint so shouldn’t apply to murals. A District Court judge saw differently, siding with the city.
Buckley has talked about his situation as one of the reasons he decided to run for mayor. He plans to make it a political issue during the race.
“I’m running as a change candidate to fix those things,” he said. “People are threatened by change so much … every city needs to evolve especially a state capitol.”
Mayor Mike Pantelides said the situation wasted city officials’ time. They could have been working on projects like The Lofts at Eastport Landing but were instead in court over the mural, he said.
“Glad to see he is following the law,” Pantelides said. “That’s the way it is supposed to be done.”
Most changes to historic properties require property owners file an application with the city. Smaller changes can be approved administratively by the city’s Historic Preservation chief, Lisa Craig.
The application sets in motion the city’s approval process for changes made to historic district buildings. The city’s Historic Preservation Office and Historic Preservation Commission work in concert to uphold city and federal historic preservation guidelines. They approve exterior changes to uphold those standards.
If Buckley’s application is deemed complete, a review and decision by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission is expected to take place in September. A staff report will be released 11 days before the commission’s meeting.
More significant changes — such as the Tsunami mural — require the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission.
“(This is) what we wanted all along, was to go through the same process every other property owner goes through,” Craig said. “We look forward to the public hearing and listening to the applicant and others in the general public.”
Republican mayoral candidate Nevin Young said he sides with Buckley on this issue. If the city wants to enforce these rules, they need to be made more clear, he said.
“They need to be explicit about it,” Young said. “This is a law that doesn’t seem to give them any express authority to regulate paint.”
Democratic mayoral candidate state Sen. John Astle didn’t think the city’s process was flawed. He brought up a mural painted on the side of the Chez Amis Bed and Breakfast Inn. Democratic Ward 1 City Council candidate Elly Tierney co-owns the inn with her husband.
“She put in an application, they have a public hearing … and ultimately they gave her permission,” Astle said. “That’s the process and it worked.”
“If you don’t like the process, you have to get on the inside and work to change it. You can’t snub it.”
Artist Jeff Huntington’s mural is a blending of the Buddha with a screaming woman from the movie “Battleship Potemkin.” Gold, black and gray mix and separate within the mural’s center.
It was painted June 2016 with city officials protesting the decision shortly afterward. They cited Buckley’s business for putting up the mural without permission. Buckley claimed he thought the mural was fine because the city doesn’t regulate the painting of buildings.
It’s true that the city doesn’t regulate the painting of buildings, but officials argued a mural is more than paint. And a judge agreed with them in May, although he also ruled unconstitutional a portion of the city’s historic preservation code for seemingly granting the commission broad authority.
Legislation introduced at Monday’s meeting aims to narrow that law.
“We went through the process and we think the city needed to have that conversation,” Buckley said, who owns the building. “We believed one thing and the city believed another thing.”
Annapolis officials are accepting public testimony on the permit application for the mural at Tsunami. Email Shari Pippen at email@example.com.