Ridgeway angel wings may violate zoning ordinance

RIDGEWAY – Two giant angel wings painted last week on the side of the Olde Town Hall Restaurant in downtown Ridgeway are causing a stir and may have broken a law, according to the town’s zoning administrator.

Ridgeway resident Patsy Palmer, who consigned the painting, reportedly said she had permission from town council to have the wings painted on the building which is owned by the town government.

Mayor Heath Cookendorfer confirmed as much to The Voice, saying, “When Patsy asked me if she could have the wings painted on the building, I thought it was a good idea and called the other council members to see what they thought. They all agreed it was, so I told her, “Yeah, go ahead.”

A stop order was issued by the town zoning administrator after the wings were painted on Olde Town Hall restaurant, one of the town’s historic buildings. | Barbara Ball

However not only does town council not have the authority to approve such a project, council’s on-the-fly ‘vote’ is a violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Councilman Rufus Jones told The Voice that, in hindsight, he realizes that he made a mistake to agree to the painting. Councilwoman Belva Bush Belton said she doesn’t remember actually agreeing to the painting going up on a specific building.

“We didn’t specifically ok this location, that location,” Bush told The Voice. “I think now that the location should have been given a little more thought. I think we were giving our opinion that it was a good idea to do something like that, but it never came back as that location and it never came up for a vote or even to discuss it in depth. The next thing I knew, I was driving through town and it was painted on the building.”

Because the painting is rendered on an historic building in the town’s overlay district, the Architectural Review Board is the board authorized to approve it, not town council, according to the town’s zoning administrator, attorney Robert Hartman.

Cookendorfer said he just wasn’t thinking when he gave Palmer permission to paint the wings on the wall. He said, however, that he actually gave her permission to paint wings on two other town-owned buildings as well.

“I have since told her to hold off on the other two until we get this settled,” Cookendorfer said.

On Friday, Hartman issued Palmer and the Town of Ridgeway a Stop Order that stated: “The ‘wings’ graffiti shall be immediately removed by the Town of Ridgeway and Patsy Palmer from the Olde Town Hall building and must follow all correct procedures to not damage the bricks and mortar upon removal.”

Hartman further instructed the Town and Palmer to seek the assistance of the appointed town historian Jon Ward in determining proper removal of the paint from the brick.

Aesthetics aside, Ward, a preservationist for over 30 years, addressed the paint as an assault on the structure and sent a letter saying as much to the mayor, members of council and the zoning administrator.

“Preservation of historic buildings requires a working knowledge of proper care and repair of old structures before any action upon the structure is taken,” Ward wrote. “Over time and exposure to external conditions, deterioration to the brick will occur and the cost of [paint] removal will only increase.

“I recommend immediate action by the Ridgeway Town Council in a public meeting to prohibit any further painting of murals on publicly owned buildings and approval of the Architectural Review Board on the use of such murals on privately owned buildings,” Ward wrote.

“The purpose of the Architectural Board is to preserve and protect historic and architecturally valuable structures, preserve and protect significant natural scenic areas and protect and provide for the unique, special or desired character of the [town’s] overlay district,” Hartman’s Order stated.

According to the Ridgeway Zoning Ordinance Section 705 – VIOLATIONS: If the zoning administrator shall find that any one of the provisions of this ordinance is being violated, he shall…notify in writing the person responsible for such violations…He shall order discontinuance of any illegal work being done…

Ridgeway Zoning Ordinance Section 707 – PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION: Any person violating any provisions of this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined, as determined by the Court for each offense. Each day such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the governing authority from taking such other lawful action as is necessary to prevent or remedy a violation.

Cookendorfer told The Voice that he has instructed the Architectural Review Board to schedule a meeting to hear the issue.

“I told them, “If you vote to leave it, then it stays,” Corkendorfer said. “If you vote to remove it, then we’ll remove it.”

At press time, Palmer had not responded to requests for a comment from The Voice.

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