Bayshore CRA allows two murals, puts moratorium on new ones until rules can be hashed out

A mural depicting flowers decorates the side of Naples Beach and Bay Realty in the Bayshore Arts District of Naples on Monday, April 2, 2018.

As anyone who has picked up a paint tube or a chisel knows, the arts can be messy.

The Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Agency found that out this week as the board and Collier County commissioners took up a dilemma over murals in the burgeoning arts district in East Naples.

By the time the dust had settled, the redevelopment agency had voted to approve two murals that county code enforcers had cited for violations. The agency also had put in place a moratorium on new murals until rules could be hashed out.

A crowd of supporters gathered outside the CRA offices before the agency's Tuesday night meeting to cheer the two Bayshore business owners whose murals had been cited.

"I'm glad it's over," Naples Beach and Bay Realty owner Diane Sullivan said afterward. "I'm glad we can do business and go about making Bayshore a great place to live."

Bayshore jewelry design studio owner Amada Jaron said she's proud of what the neighborhood has done to bring arts to Bayshore Drive.

"I look forward to many, many more murals," Jaron said.

There was not-so-good news for other businesses along Bayshore Drive that are contemplating a more colorful facade. The board, at the suggestion of county commissioners, placed a moratorium on new murals until it can firm up a process that addresses details.

There are no pending applications for murals, said Bayshore advisory board chairman Maurice Gutierrez. He suggested the question of art standards in the Bayshore Arts District will need to go beyond paint on walls. 

"I think we'll start with murals but morph into everything else," he said. "What about public art placement? There's something way back in the code about that. And why stop with simple murals? We can go with mosaics, too." 

He said he was happy to see the two business owners get to keep their murals, and just as happy the board already has some advisers to help it create public art standards to present to the county for approval.

After the first mural complaint surfaced, the board enlisted two artists — Paul Arsenault and Margaret Chevalier— and United Arts Council Executive Director Laura Burns to help begin setting qualifications.

"The cat got out of the bag, but it didn't get very far," Gutierrez said, chuckling.

The district is a swath of commercial land primarily along Bayshore Drive between U.S. 41 East and the Naples Botanical Garden. While its slogan is "Creativity in Bloom," the concerns of unchecked creativity burned at least a half-hour of debate at a Tuesday workshop with Collier commissioners.

The dilemma centered around the two wall paintings the CRA had initially approved but that had metamorphosed beyond what was in the initial design. The two business owners were trying to work out the deviations in their finished walls with the CRA when they were served with code violation notices from the county that could have forced them to change or obliterate the murals.

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One, according to code officials, was served for creating a mural "outside the original scope of the design," and the other for creating a mural larger than 200 square feet.

The first mural, submitted by Jaron for the front of her jewelry design store at 3784 Bayshore Drive, was approved before the board even had an application form. 

"We did not have a process in place when Amanda (Jaron) brought in her mural. The process was only what was outlined in the code," said CRA Director Debrah Forester, who joined the department after that decision. "I was not there at the meeting at the time. I'm not sure whether the committee even had a chance to look at what the code said." 

The organization had put together an application form by the time Sullivan requested a field of flowers across her building at 3570 Bayshore Drive. But the code violation — that it is larger than the 200 square feet allowed under county guidelines — can be overriden by the CRA board, County Manager Leo Ochs pointed out Tuesday.

A mural of a mermaid decorates the side of A. JARON Fine Jewelry in the Bayshore Arts District of Naples, Florida on Monday, April 2, 2018.

Commissioner Bill McDaniel found yet another flaw: "It says that murals should only be on blank walls. There is no such thing as a blank wall. It's going to be very, very difficult to find a blank wall."

That would be a certain stumbling block to the "Creativity in Bloom" motto for the Bayshore arts district.

"I think stopping doing anything until we have a more formalized process in place is paramount," he continued. "We need to not go forward until we have a formal process in place. And then we have to give some consideration to artistic license."

Commissioner Andy Solis said he could see a "fine line between art and what you would call advertising."

"I think the CRA has to be the one to make the decision. You can't throw it over here on us — good try, though," he said, to a round of laughter among the workshop group.

"In this case, however, there's an easy solution. If the CRA is OK with what's done, they can go back and approve them."

And that is just what the board did Tuesday night.

Gutierrez said Wednesday he is hoping a blueprint for public art in the Bayshore Arts District will be ready before next tourist season.