Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

There’s a battle brewing in Neptune Beach over what is a sign, and what is art.  At issue is a mural on the side of a moving company building picturing a stylized sun and moon.  The name of the company is “Day and Night Movers”.

The city says the mural violates the city’s sign ordinance, that it includes a logo for the business.  Read the story in “The Beaches Leader” here.  I’ll try to get over there tomorrow and take a picture of it.

Now, this is going to stray very close to commentary, but I just don’t see the harm.  I can understand the need for a sign ordinance.  You don’t want monstrous signs obliterating the landscape, or being totally out of character with “feel” of the town.  But what’s always made a beach town interesting to me are the unique, fun, and yes sometimes kitchy things like murals on the sides of buildings.  Something to make the entrance to our town be different from any other major corridor going into any other place in America.  What’s wrong with a little fun, and a little art.

When they renovated the old Holiday Inn in Jax Beach to a Marriott (I think), we lost a very interesting mural of sea life that was on the side of the building.  Whales and gulls and cool oceany beachy stuff.  I liked it a lot.  It made the hotel stand out, and added a little color to First Street.  But as our town(s) have matured, it seems like everything that makes us different is bad.  Now, the commercial Solantic sign with the moving message is NOT the same as a mural that might possibly is some way denote the name of the business.  It certainly doesn’t denote the nature of that business.  The big Solantic sign is just that, a big sign.  The Night and Day mural (I hesitate to even call it a sign) could at least be construed as having some artistic value.  It’s not, in my opinion, the same thing.

So what does it hurt?  The powers that be all say it’s one of those “slippery slope” issues, and that they don’t want to set a precedent … that the WalMart that’s coming could paint a big smiley face on the side of their building if they allow Night and Day.  Well, here’s a clue.  WalMart is VERY unlikely to do that simply because it’s not the kind of thing they do.  They only make changes to their standard big box design when required to by local governments … which they have in the case of Neptune Beach.  Why?  It costs them money, and they don’t want to spend a nickle more than they absolutely have to.  I’d not look for a huge smiley on the wall at WalMart anytime soon.

So, if it was up to me, I’d let the mural stand.  I hope it does.  I hope the school on Florida Boulevard gets to keep theirs, too.  That one’s on the back of the building where no one but the students and the lizards can see it.  Getting rid of a mural on a building won’t go an inch toward’s cleaning up Atlantic Boulevard in Neptune Beach.  It’s not bad as it is, and the Night and Day mural isn’t going to make it any worse.  In fact, it’s one of those things that can make our little town unique in a good way.  It’s what a variance is for.  It’s only a slippery slope if the council allows it to be.  But sometimes it seems much easier to take the path of least resistance and just deny everything rather than take the time to think about it.  That’s a little sad.



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