A stay has been placed on the removal of a striking mural on the side of a Mount Pleasant grill house while the town council decides whether the signage ordinance should be revised.
The mural of John Lennon, Al Capone and Marilyn Monroe, painted by an internationally recognized artist, adorns the outside wall of Moe’s Southwestern Grill.
But its presence came to the attention of the town’s zoning administrator, who then ruled it broke the town’s rules on commercial signage because it “draws the attention of people.”
The Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-3 that it is a commercial sign, that it is too big, and that it should be removed, a move that spurred one local councilman into action.
“No one complained about it,” Councilman Mark Smith told the Palmetto Business Daily. “It has been up for some time but it was only just cited.”
Council members, including Mayor Linda Page, voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the process of changing the signage ordinance to allow such murals in Mount Pleasant’s two urban quarters.
The legal department will now come up with the language that could allow such work to be displayed, Smith said. The full Council will meet Tuesday to give its input into the controversy and decide whether to move forward with the change. These moves effectively put a block on any attempt to remove the art, which was painted by the Portuguese artist, Odeith.
Smith believes the wording of the sign ordinance - anything that draws attention - is so vague that many businesses could be caught in its wake. He cites the examples of a bicycle store with its ware outside, or a dance studio with a picture in the window.
During the zoning board meeting, board chairman Mason Smith argued that allowing the Moe’s mural could mean “anybody who wanted to could go on the side of a building and paint anything they want.”
But Smith argued murals that are not signs should be allowed in the urban quarters, and that they could be controlled.
Any new ordinance would face the public hearing process before heading back to the full Council for a vote. All 20 comments received by the zoning board ahead of its meeting before Christmas were supportive of the mural’s presence.
But zoning administrator Kent Prause argued before the board that it is a sign, that the name of the restaurant is an acronym for "musicians, outlaws and entertainers," and therefore is tied to the brand, according to a report in the Post and Courier.
Moe's franchisee Cary Chastain told the appeals board the mural is not part of a corporate marketing plan, and it is not a sign.
"This mural has zero impact on our business," he said. "The reason it’s there is, I don’t think our building is the most attractive building around here."