Dunwoody officials are going “back to the drawing board” on an ordinance defining public art in the city after an attorney reportedly told them the first version was too restrictive.

The City Council was expected to consider at its Sept. 9 meeting a proposed ordinance that would essentially define public art as “black copy against a white background” to imitate the Spruill Center for the Arts’ iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural.

But the city attorney told CREATE Dunwoody board members at a Sept. 3 meeting that the proposed ordinance was “too narrow in scope,” said Alan Mothner, president of the board. The volunteer board has been meeting over the past several months to find ways to implement the arts and culture master plan the City Council approved two years ago.

“Essentially the message was to slow down … and to come up with a more accurate way to define public art in Dunwoody,” Mothner said. He said he expected the proposed ordinance to be removed from the City Council’s Aug. 9 meeting.

The proposed zoning ordinance defining public art also specifies the black-and-white sign must be painted directly on or affixed to walls in busy areas where they are visible to the entire community and be only 120 square feet in area. The proposed ordinance further states public art can only be erected after getting permission from the CREATE Dunwoody board.

Members of the CREATE Dunwoody volunteer board.

Mothner told the Planning Commission in June the idea was to define public art to separate it from commercial signage and to allow for similar murals as the “Everything Will Be OK” with other positive messages to be located throughout the city.

The reason for such a narrow scope in the initial proposed ordinance is due to the City Council’s hesitancy and reluctance in the past to address public art due to fear of controversy.

City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said after meeting with the CREATE Dunwoody board, city staff is going “back to the drawing board” to find a better way to define public art.

“We’re looking at ordinances from surrounding cities, and we’re crafting a mural ordinance that will allow public art to blossom in Dunwoody,” she said in an email.

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