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It’s time to recognize “public art” and murals

IS THIS REALLY A SIGN Under the town’s current Zoning By-Laws, this mural on the building of Cap World, located on Route 1 North, is considered a sign that needs to be covered up or removed. (2)
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Town Meeting Member Vecchione introduces a Town Meeting article that distinguishes public art from signs

  Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Joseph John Vecchione IV says there is a big difference between a sign and public art and murals. But the town’s sign ordinance is so antiquated that it doesn’t make the distinction, he says. That’s why the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) recently ordered Cap World to cover up or remove its colorful mural within 60 days.

  Vecchione has authored an article for the next Special or Annual Town Meeting that would amend the Saugus Zoning By-Laws to address the dilemma currently faced by the Route 1 business located at 1200-1202 Broadway North. The article proposed by Vecchione would “allow for the creation of new Original Art Murals, Public Art Installations and the preservation of Vintage Original Art Murals on public and private property in commercially zoned districts without being calculated as part of the signage dimensional regulations or color regulations set forth in Section 7.4 of the Saugus Zoning By-Laws.”

  “This article also seeks to create an approvals process for murals and public art installations which codifies the procedures, design criteria, construction, and maintenance guidelines for “approved arts projects” in the Town of Saugus,” according to the proposal Vecchione presented to selectmen at Tuesday night’s (Feb. 15) meeting.

  Vecchione said he was already working on the article before the Cap World situation arose. “As you know, a prominent example which illustrates just one of the reasons why I’m bringing this article forward was the recent ZBA decision which resulted in the Cap World mural which depicts a colorful homage to prominent Route 1 landmarks being rendered a ‘sign’ and therefore noncompliant with our signage regulations relating to coverage and maximum colors,” Vecchione told The Saugus Advocate this week.

  “They have been ordered to remove the illustration, and as a result, we have effectively made our built environment worse, even just by a little. This rigid and antiquated interpretation and enforcement of signage has been ongoing for some time, even preceding the Cap World issues. I understand why Saugus has a strict definition of ‘signage’ and the history behind the issue,” he said.

  “I respect what the ZBA does and those who sit on the ZBA. However, when the purpose and intent of the bylaw and what it intends to regulate is no longer effective, it’s time to amend the bylaw… And yes, it’s time to amend the bylaw,” he said.

  Vecchione says he hopes the article will give the ZBA a more black and white definition of “signage” in Saugus and how it’s distinguished from “public art” and “murals,” noting “We have de facto banned public art for years.”

  “By establishing criteria for murals and public art in Saugus – something many towns and cities around us have adopted, but remains absent in Saugus’ zoning bylaws – we can have a process to regulate the application of murals to ensure they are appropriate in scale and do not adversely impact public safety,” he said. “I’ll make a point: If you stripped Cap World of all of its signage and kept just the mural, would you know it was Cap World? If the answer is no, it’s not a sign.”

  Vecchione’s proposal received favorable feedback from Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting. “That sign adds value to the town,” Cicolini said of the Cap World mural. “It’s historic. It’s not to promote their signage. It was in good taste and it adds to Route One’s history and nostalgia.”

  Cicolini said he would like to see if there is a way to extend the 60-day period for Cap World to cover up its mural, pending Town Meeting approval of the bylaw amendment. “Why have them go through the aggravation to cover it up?” Cicolini said, if the zoning amendment is approved a short time later by a Special or Annual Town Meeting?

  Selectman Michael Serino pointed out that the issue of Cap World’s sign doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen, which can only vote to accept a Town Meeting warrant article. Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said the proper way to proceed would be for Cap World to make a formal request to the ZBA to be put on a future meeting agenda so the company could seek an extension, pending the Town Meeting vote.

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