Dave Kemp, who is trying to save the large sandwich painted on exterior of his downtown Lee’s Summit deli, didn’t get far with the city Planning Commission.
Commissioners unanimously voted last week to direct Bob McKay, director of zoning and codes, to work on revisions for regulating murals, but they rejected the idea that those murals could include “commercial speech.”
They consider the painting on Kemp’s ’Bout Thyme Deli to be a wall sign painted on the stucco, a practice forbidden in the city. The deli is at 210 S.E. Douglas St.
Several commissioners said Kemp should have followed the city’s application process.
Kemp didn’t get a permit when he commissioned an artist to paint the scene. He told the commission that he intended to get one when he could take a picture to submit with the application. The city requires a conceptual drawing of the sign before a permit can be granted.
“I’m going to see about putting (the issue) before the City Council,” Kemp said.
Kemp said he wasn’t trying to be a jerk but added he’d persist in trying to save the sandwich painted on his business. It includes his shop’s name and some of the items it sells. It doesn’t list prices.
Kemp said it meets the definition of a mural, but city officials disagree.
“I don’t want to see signs down there. I want to see murals,” said Kathy Smith, a commissioner who is also chairwoman of the Lee’s Summit Preservation Commission and the Lee’s Summit Historical Society.
She said murals would be part of a growing arts district.
Lee’s Summit Downtown Main Street Inc. has proposed regulating murals in the central business district so that permits would be required even for those without commercial speech.
That group opposes commercial speech in the murals and wants to make sure the art isn’t offensive.
“We are fearful having every building downtown with a painted wall sign,” said Trisha Drape, director of Main Street group.
Kemp questions the practicality of enforcing such a provision.
“How can you know what’s in an artist’s mind?” he said.
Kemp cited several instances of older signs on downtown buildings, such as the VFW post farther south on Douglas Street. He said the painted walls with Coca-Cola and Western Auto in Kansas City are landmarks. They evoke memories of small towns and earlier times, which Lee’s Summit wants to promote for its downtown.
McKay said wall signs that were present before the city adopted its ordinance are “grandfathered,” and if a building is substantially changed, the signs would have to be corrected.