(Host) Earlier this month, a resident of Post Mills came under fire for building a 25-foot dinosaur in his yard from wood scraps.
He called it creative expression. His neighbors weren’t so sure.
In Brandon, it’s a painting of sunflowers that’s stirring up debate. Its creator and many locals say it’s art.
But as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, town officials say it’s a sign and needs to come down.
(Keck) It’s a hot sultry day in Brandon and Hillary Leonard takes a break from shopping and sits in the shade watching traffic go by. She points to Liza Myers’ art gallery, which is directly across the street.
(Leonard) "I think if you own an art gallery, it is expected that it’s going to be decorated. And it’s decorated beautifully."
(Keck) She’s talking about a four-by-sixteen foot painting of a moonlit hillside overflowing with sunflowers. Painter Liza Myers says it’s her contribution to the Brandon Artist Guild’s summer fundraiser.
(Myers) "The Guild every year does a big project – and I’ve participated since day one in 2002. And I’ve done sunflowers for years. So I thought, ‘This is my chance to do a big, beautiful piece of Vermont to put on this empty wall on the side of my building facing the park.’ So as you’re driving down Route 7, you’ll see this big, 16-foot mural of a Vermont vista."
(Keck) But for this particular vista, size matters. And town officials told Myers that she needed a permit or she’d have to take the painting down.
(Wiles) "It exceeds the sign size requirements for that size building."
(Keck) Tina Wiles is Brandon’s zoning administrator. She says Myers’ gallery already has a sign, and the painting puts her over the signage limit. Wiles says the town’s definition of a sign is clear.
(Wiles) "It says any outdoor structure that advertises, calls attention or directs someone to a business. And it’s the opinion of the town that the sign on the side of an art gallery does draw attention to that business."
(Provo) "I don’t’ see it as a sign. I see it as a work of art."
(Keck) That’s Steve Provo. He lives in Plattsburgh, New York, but was visiting Brandon recently and stopped to look at Myers’ painting.
(Provo) "It’s really beautiful. It really adds to the ambiance of the town, especially with all the sunflowers that they’ve installed all over the town. So it’s beautiful. There’s no writing on it that I can see so it doesn’t represent a sign to me."
(Keck) Brandon’s zoning administrator, Tina Wiles, agrees the painting is marvelous, but says Myers needs to comply with town rules.
(Wiles) "On the flip side, probably when the rules were written the artist guild projects weren’t there. And since the town is currently re-writing their ordinance, this is something we can look at to find a way to make it work, for temporary type signage like this."
(Keck) Meanwhile, since Liza Myers appealed Wiles’ decision. It falls to Brandon’s Development Review Board to determine what’s art and what’s a sign. They’ll take up the issue at a public meeting on Wednesday.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Brandon.