VOL. 133 | NO. 48 | Wednesday, March 7, 2018
City Council Continues to Dabble In Art Issues
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members were told Tuesday, March 6, that removing a mural from a private business front on Lamar Avenue will be difficult despite a council call to do so.
The zombie-like mural by the artist Dustin Spagnola has drawn most of the ire of council members for several months. Some have called it “satanic.” Others on the council argue the imagery isn’t respectful of the surrounding community.
Paint Memphis founder Karen Golightly has sparred with the council over the last two months saying she sought public input and set guidelines based on what residents said they wanted.
Assistant city attorney Jennifer Sink said she is exploring a court order to have the Spagnola work specifically painted over and told the council “It’s difficult for a court. To make that finding would be a challenge.”
Council attorney Allan Wade likened it to the city’s drawn out attempt over several years to modify the exterior of the Prince Mongo’s nightclub on Front Street decades ago. As the city pursued Mongo – whose real name is Robert Hodges – he changed the exterior appearance and at one point changed its name to “Saint Mongo’s Planet.” Before that the city battled Mongo over the appearance of three of his homes -- one on Eastmoreland, a second in Sea Isle and another on Central at Lamar that also functioned as a later and shorter-lived version of his nightclub.
Meanwhile, the council approved a resolution Tuesday “deeming certain murals on public rights-of-way to be offensive and objectionable to the community” and requested their removal. The resolution proposed by council chairman Berlin Boyd sites murals on public property on Willett near Lamar Avenue and the city floodwall on Chelsea Avenue.
The council approved another resolution by Boyd that declares a moratorium on issuing new contracts and licenses or permits by the city for “art on city-owned property or public rights-of-way” until the council comes up with guidelines for such art.
City public works crews reacted to an earlier council resolution calling for the removal of murals by the Paint Memphis project, which has a contract with the city for the murals, by painting over all of the murals on one side of Willett, but not the ones the council specifically targeted on the other side of Willett.
In other action Tuesday, the council approved $175-million in general obligation bond financing for the renovation of the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The dollar figures matches the total estimate of the renovation that will include significant changes to the interior of the early 1970s facility and exterior changes that include a view of the Mississippi River.
The money for the renovation is to be paid with revenue from the city’s hotel-motel tax and revenue from the Downtown Tourism Development Fund. The administration opted to forego revenue bonds and use general obligation bonds citing savings to the city.
The council approved on third and final reading Tuesday an ordinance that applies some of the same rules the council applied last year to companies that boot cars parked without paying on commercial parking lots to the same companies that ticket cars and their owners for the same thing.
The council last year capped the fees companies can charge for removing a boot at $50. Some of the same companies then began ticketing cars in a move not covered by the ordinance.
The amended version proposed by council member Kemp Conrad, passed out in its final form just before the vote Tuesday, applies the rules for booting, enforced through the city permits office, to ticketing.
The maximum ticket fee that can be charged under the ordinance is two times the daily rate up to a $50 maximum.
If a car is ticketed on an unattended commercial parking lot for failure to pay, no immediate payment is required. The company must provide a mailing address to mail the payment.
Most of the rules mirror the 2017 ordinance on booting cars.
Council members voted for a short-term feasibility study of what it would take for new grocery stores to work at the Kroger locations in Southgate shopping center and on Lamar Avenue west of Airways Boulevard that Kroger closed last month. The $18,500 study is to be completed by April 1 as the council continues to discuss possible incentives the city could offer.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr. said in committee sessions that several grocers have expressed interest in the properties.
In planning and development items, the council delayed for a month approval of a historic overlay district for Cooper-Young on third and final reading. The district status has opposition.
The council gave final approval Tuesday to a Gill Properties commercial development in east Memphis that will move into the designated residential corridor of White Station Road north of Poplar. The lots from 657 to 695 White Station include homes zoned for commercial use, some used as offices currently.
With the approval of $470,000 in funding, the city has land on the northeast corner of Adams Avenue and Danny Thomas Boulevard for a new fire station. It is to replace Fire Station #5 at the northwest corner of Front Street and Union Avenue. The existing fire station sits on part of the site for the new Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, including a parking garage next to the fire station. The Brooks move from Overton Park to the riverfront site is set for five years from now.
The council approved another $42,460 for the “condemnation/acquisition” of land at 1287 E. Holmes Road for a new Fire Station #43.