City planner: Guidelines for murals being readied, but process will take time

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, July 21, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Downtown mural guidelines put together by the city’s planning department are almost ready to go to the city’s preservation commission for its examination, said Frankie Legaux, Natchez City Planner.

However, the process of agreeing upon and approving such guidelines will not happen quickly, she warned.

“The guidelines are over in the city attorney’s office for him to review. I asked him to get it back to me to take to the preservation commission. Then, it will go to the planning commission and then the aldermen for approval,” Legaux said.

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Natchez business owner Taylor Cooley, who owns an event space and photography studio at 631 Franklin St., has been pushing for more than a year to get approval from the preservation commission to add murals on the side and back of her building. At present, the preservation commission does not allow murals within the historic district.

Because of the interest in such expressed by Cooley and others in the city, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson asked the planning department to see if it could come up with guidelines that could be agreed upon to allow murals, with restrictions, in downtown Natchez.

“The preservation commission has purview over everything in the local historic district,” Legaux said. “We want to get their opinion and their input. Technically, they don’t make a recommendation.”

Should City Attorney Bryan Callaway complete his review of the legality of the guidelines in time, the preservation commission’s next meeting is Wednesday, Aug. 10. 

“Whether the preservation commission gets the guidelines that night depends on whether the attorney has completed his review,” she said.

Some of the proposed guidelines include not painting a mural directly on brick or stone, which typically is not reversible, Legaux said. “You want to be able to take it off at some point, and painting brick damages it, as does the removal of paint from brick.

She also said the proposed guidelines prohibit murals in the historic district on any “contributing” building, which means any historic structure. “You don’t want to mar any building that is extremely historic.”

A “non-contributing” building would be one that has had many changes to it architecturally through the years, those that don’t have historic character or new construction in the historic district,” Legaux said.

Other proposed guidelines include a limit on the size of the artist’s signature on the mural, as well as the mural will not be allowed to cover any architectural features of the structure or windows.

“The preservation commission will not necessarily look at content of the mural, but they want to make sure that how it’s attached and where it is going does not harm the building or do harm to the historic district,” she said.

After the preservation commission looks at the guidelines, they will then go to the planning commission for its input, then to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

“Any of those groups can suggest things they want to add, or take out things they don’t like,” Legaux said.

The preservation commission only looks at the exterior of buildings in the local historic district, or the landmark structures outside the historic district. The planning commission is the city’s board on approving subdivisions and the like and makes certain structures meet city ordinances, as well as the board that is charged with granting special exceptions and variances to ordinances, when those are appropriate.

The preservation commission meets the second Wednesday of each month at the City Council chambers. The planning commission meets the third Thursday of each month, also at 5:15 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, which is located across the street from City Hall on Pearl Street.