Forsyth approved the rest of a new mural design for Jonah’s on Johnston to include advertising. Council approved the sign variance requested by Jonah’s, 4-2, with council members Julius Stroud and John Howard voting against doing so.
At the end of the Forsyth city council meeting on July 7, council member Greg Goolsby said he had talked with the owners of Jonah’s on Johnston since the June 15 council meeting and proposed that council approve the whole mural for their building as they requested. At the June 15 meeting council approved the lower half of the mural that related to Jonah’s with ‘pizza wings’ but tabled a decision on the upper part of the mural, which was a design with a round pizza cut into six slices, each slice advertising another downtown business.
Although Forsyth Planning & Zoning Commission had recommended approval of the whole mural, concerns were presented to council that approval of a variance for advertising other businesses might set a precedent for all kinds of advertising on the walls of downtown buildings.
Goolsby said that in talking with Eric and Laurie Thomas of Jonah’s, he understood they limited their request to council to downtown merchants as advertisers on their building, and he thought it was something council should approve instead of holding them up on their mural plans.
“I think we got off track,” said Goolsby. “I think [Forsyth Economic Development Director] Tammie Pierson confused the issue. I think we should do everything we can to help merchants downtown.”
Pierson had discussed the need for Forsyth to set guidelines for murals. She said the city is using its sign ordinances to regulate murals but needs to adopt some specific regulations for murals.
“How can we control advertising in murals?” asked council member Chris Hewett.
“Will Planning & Zoning have a say in controlling ads?” asked council member Mike Dodd.
Goolsby said that Jonah’s on Johnston changed its request to limit its advertising to downtown merchants between presenting plans to Planning & Zoning and presenting them to council, and he feels the restricted request takes away the problem of setting a precedent for other advertising.
“I still disagree because it sets a bad precedent for other building owners,” said council member Julius Stroud. “I love the idea [that Jonah’s presented], but what stops other businesses?”
Council member John Howard said he voted ‘no’ because any business should have to go before Design & Review and he noted a business in the city has put up advertising wraps that don’t seem to conform to Design & Review guidelines. The city combined its Design & Review Board with its Planning & Zoning Commission a couple of years ago.
City manager Janice Hall said the advertising that Howard referenced is being addressed by the city.
“It’s still there but it’s being addressed,” said Hall.