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Town Board Tables Graffiti Law
January Board Meeting
January 7, 2016

riental’s Town Board has tabled action on a proposed graffiti ordinance. At Tuesday night’s meeting, several commissioners raised questions about the need for such a law and about how the town would define graffiti.

The proposed ordinance was being suggested as a way of getting rid of the graffiti that has been on the front of the now-closed Town-n-Country grocery since Halloween night. The spray painting came just days after the 4-decade old business closed due to competition from the Walmart Express a few hundred yards away. The graffiti addressed that history.

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Graffiti has covered the front of the Town-n-Country since Halloween. One doorway was painted a few days later but no further painting-over has taken place since then.

A few days after the graffiti appeared, the tagging on one set of doors was covered with black paint. The cleanup went no further despite public suggestions and offers of supplying more paint and labor. For more than 2 months the graffiti has stayed – to some an ugly eyesore, to others a lament.

The graffiti ordinance had been drawn up by town attorney Scott Davis and is identical to the graffiti law in New Bern where Davis is also the municipal attorney.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner David White said he thought the proposed ordinance was “jumping the gun.” In his 13 years in Oriental, he said, graffiti had not been a problem. Commissioner Barbara Venturi echoed that and suggested that cleaning up graffiti was in the interests of building owners if they wanted to sell or rent the building.

Rather than adopt the proposed graffiti ordinance,the Commissioners who spoke – Venturi, White and Commissioner Charie Overcash – said they’d rather the Town talk with the building’s owner, Ruth Ireland and get things resolved that way.

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Town-n-Country storefront as it appeared – graffiti-free – for a few days in late October. The plywood went up as the 40+ year old grocery was shutting down due to competition from WalMart.

Mayor Sally Beangia told the Board that when she spoke with Ruth Ireland earlier in the day the Town-n-Country owner said she would have the graffiti painted over, by a professional, this month.

Though much of the focus was on how to get the graffiti covered, Commissioner White also raised eye-of-the-beholder questions about how broadly the Town administration could interpret the proposed ordinance and determine what would be subject to the graffiti law.

“Here’s the issue that I have,” White said, “What is graffiti?” He noted the swirl painted on the Old Theater across the street, Some think it is a beautiful painting, White said, others do not. White also spoke of a man in town a few years ago who put a sign on his property advising that others not use the same builder he had.

The Board voted 5-0 to table the proposal, in the stated hope that Ruth Ireland would have the graffiti covered by month’s end. The proposal could be on the agenda for the February meeting.

In other action, the Board took the first steps in a rezoning request. The new owners of property at 902 1st Avenue are asking to change the zoning from R1 to the less restrictive R2, in order to allow the house to be a vacation rental. The building is near the corner of High and First and the homes adjacent to it are R1 while those across 1st Avenue are zoned R2. The Public Hearing could be set for as early as February 2, if the applicant submits paperwork by January 8.

The Town Board also tapped Gary Dail to serve on the Harbor Waterfronts Advisory Committee. Gary is the TowBoat US captain at Deaton’s and takes Ed Bliss’s seat on the committee.

Two years ago at a HWAC session about gaining more public docking space, he suggested running a floating dock at an angle from the Dinghy Dock and in to the anchorage. The concept has since been on the HWAC’s list of projects to consider.

In other bosating news, a change has come for those trailering boats down Midyette Street to the Wildlife Ramp. The speed limit is now 15 MPH (instead of 25mph) and a speed bump and signs warning of it were to be installed within days.

Commissioner Venturi said that the Parks & Rec Committee has decided it needed a separate standing committee to take on the long-talked-about bike path project. The path would link both parts of town, cutting through land at the headwaters of Whittaker Creek to reach White Farm Road or the rec field. Venturi said that at its February meeting she hoped to formally set up what she described as a blue ribbon panel that could ‘fast track’ the bike path, while the Parks & Rec Committee could tend to many other issues.

Venturi also reported that either 2 or 4 pickleball courts could be set up within the existing tennis court at Lupton Park. Pickleball combines tennis, badminton and ping pong and is played with plastic balls and paddles. No pickles are involved.

Commissioner Overcash reported that at its next meeting he Planning Board’s would discuss ‘terra-forming” in Oriental. That’s the practice of importing soil to a lot in advance of building on it. This creates a much higher elevation than the yards of neighbors. Oriental has nothing on the books specifically addressing hilling. Also on the Planning Board’s January 28 agenda, setbacks and sidewalk standards.

The Town Manager said the Board would have a one-and-a-half day retreat to consisder the town budget on Friday March 11 and Saturday March 12 at Pamlico Community College. The meetings are open to the public.

Posted Thursday January 7, 2016 by Melinda Penkava

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