Mural project request denied after tie vote

By Sabrina Bates

News Producer

A request for a mural on the back of a downtown Martin business was denied after a tie vote last week by the Martin Historic Zoning Commission.

Martin’s Coffee and Bakery applied for a Certificate of Approval by the zoning board after the owners applied for the project, Walls for Women, earlier this year.

Walls for Women is a non-profit movement across the state that put a call out for locations interested in having a mural placed on properties to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

During the MHZC virtual meeting held last week, board members discussed the mural and need for guidelines for such projects.

Board members asked Martin’s Coffee and Bakery owner John Sellers if the mural can be granted to another area of town that isn’t in the historic district. Walls for Women project representative Scott Van Velsor said the business owners have already granted permission for a mural to be placed on the back of the downtown coffee shop.

Jane Coleman-Cottone of the Tennessee Historical Commission was on hand for the virtual meeting. She explained Martin is considered a Certified Local Government and grants will be available in January for zoning commissions that are interested in updating their guidelines.

Coleman-Cottone said the topic of murals is often discussed, but without guidelines currently in place, historic commissions treat them as they do signage, governing the placement and manner for murals.

The process for amending guidelines is a lengthy process, according to discussion by the board.

After discussion, the vote to approve the mural was met with a tie by board members and the COA request by the Sellers was denied.

Commission members also discussed the lighting request by Sellers for the downtown coffee shop.

Exterior lighting for the building sparked debate and controversy recently when a COA request for string lighting on the building was denied as it did not fall within the governing guidelines for downtown businesses located in the historic district.

The lights had been in place prior to a request for approval by the board.

When an approval request was finally made to board members, the string lighting was denied.

Members of the commission offered to help the business owner determine proper lighting for the exterior of the coffee shop.

Sellers included several lighting options in his COA request last week.

Former MHZC chairman Warner Pace offered to work with Sellers to determine appropriate lighting and board members agreed to expedite his request to put proper lighting in place.

The board agreed to move forward with evaluating its historic zoning guidelines and consider applying for the upcoming grants that would offset the cost of hiring a consultant for the process of amending historic guidelines.

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