The Frankfort City Commission on Monday approved an ordinance that outlines guidelines for murals in the city’s downtown historic districts.
Mayor Bill May and Commissioners Katrisha Waldridge, Scott Tippett and John Sower voted in favor of the ordinance. Commissioner Eric Whisman abstained.
The ordinance repeals a moratorium that the commission had placed on new murals in the historic district and outlines a process in a new chapter of Frankfort’s Code of Ordinances for citizens to construct murals with city oversight. The ordinance gives the city’s Planning and Community Development staff the authority to approve proposed murals if they follow guidelines found in the ordinance. If the staff determines that a proposed mural does not meet the guidelines, then it will be sent to the Architectural Review Board for further review and approval or rejection. The ordinance does not have an appeal process in it.
Whisman proposed amendments to the draft ordinance Monday night, but his colleagues did not support the amendments. Whisman had sent the proposed amendments to commissioners earlier on Monday. He proposed removing a section in the beginning of the ordinance that says that there was “substantial interest” from property owners and arts groups to promote Frankfort as the “Public Art Capital of Kentucky,” sending all mural proposals to the ARB rather than to the Planning and Community Development staff, and allowing ARB to review the possible cumulative effect of murals as they are built downtown.
In the citizen comment portion of Monday’s meeting, two speakers addressed the mural ordinance before the vote.
Vicki Birenberg, the Kentucky Heritage Council’s Certified Local Government (CLG) Program and planning director and a property owner in one of Frankfort’s historic districts, told commissioners that the proposed ordinance included the “barest of minimal guidelines and it does not go far enough to protect the integrity of our existing historic districts.” She said that Frankfort is one of 23 CLGs in the state and has been since 1985.
Melanie VanHouten, director of Josephine Sculpture Park and a representative of the Franklin County Arts Council, said in public comments that FrankArts supported the mural ordinance as written and worked with city staff, the ARB, commissioners and citizens to create the ordinance.
“We spent hours and hours and hours, not only at the meetings, but also preparing for the meetings,” VanHouten said. “Many of us are professionals in our fields. There were historic preservationists there as well as professional art consultants, professional artists and citizens who are interested and live in the community.”