A Mandan business owner says he’s going to fight to keep a mural created by numerous local artists on his storefront, after the city ordered the artwork be removed because it does not comply with its mural guidelines, and a permit was not granted.
The mural on Many Visions Apparel, 100 Second Ave. N.W., was 80 percent complete by the time store owner Bobby Cochran applied for a mural permit last fall. He said he was not aware of the city's mural guidelines.
“I thought putting a mural on the building would draw people in,” Cochran said, noting the store looked like it was “under construction” prior to the 4-by-16-foot work of art being applied. “It’s only half a wall and it’s, honestly, just covering up concrete. I don’t understand why the city would want it turned back to concrete.”
Cochran leases the building from Marian and Keith Stolz, who gave permission to have the mural applied. The Stolzes were not aware of the mural guidelines either, according to Cochran.
Hoping to have the mural in place before winter, Cochran invited artists from Bismarck and Mandan to a painting event at the store Sept. 22, which was attended by about 50 people.
Factoring in the artists’ time, paint and supplies, Cochran says the mural is worth about $2,500. Many of the artists refused payment, however, so his expense was $400.
Shortly after the mural was in place, Cochran was cited by the city's code enforcement for placing a mural on the front of the building without a permit. He applied Oct. 28 for a mural permit, which was denied by the Mandan Architectural Review Commission in November.
A city guideline prohibits placing murals on the front of buildings.
The commission also denied the mural application due to zoning regulations surrounding downtown design, with code stating: “In order to maintain a sense of harmony within the area, the colors and materials used should generally be compatible with, or complementary to, those used for buildings on adjoining parcels.”
Cochran appealed to the city commission, but failed to appear to provide testimony at its Feb. 19 meeting. He says he was busy elsewhere with his daughter. The commission denied his appeal by a unanimous vote and ordered the mural be removed.
During the meeting, Commissioner Dennis Rohr indicated he understands the intent of the rule.
“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so to speak, and I’m looking at the picture here and I can see why they want to have some uniformity where you can’t have some gaudiness that stands out from the other buildings downtown,” he said.
Cochran said he’s visiting with his lawyer about filing a court appeal.
“Art is my life. The mural means a lot to the artists that painted it. It’s only brought joy to the community. I can’t cover it up,” he said. “I’m willing to fight it and take it all the way.”
“I don’t want to have to move out of Mandan. I want to continue to bring art and business here,” Cochran said. “I do a lot of good things for the city. I definitely want to stay in the town and keep doing that.”
Last month, the city commission imposed a six-month moratorium on mural permit applications to allow the city time to draft a new ordinance to replace the existing mural guidelines, in which “critical” issues have been identified, according to John Van Dyke, Mandan's city planner.