NATCHEZ — The Town of Natchez Preservation Commission is planning a public hearing Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. to review guidelines for exterior murals in the Natchez Historic District and on landmark buildings outside the Historic District.
The hearing will be held in the council chambers at 115 S. Pearl St.
Whether to allow murals on buildings in historic buildings in the city has been a contentious issue for more than a year.
Taylor Cooley, a professional photographer who owns a studio and event space at 631 Franklin St., requested the installation of murals on the side and back walls of the building she owns.
However, the question has been asked several times by the preservation commission. Its members said they were awaiting guidelines for the murals, which had been announced to them by the city’s planning department.
Work on the guidelines for the murals began during Rico Giani’s tenure as urban planner. When Frankie Legals took over the position in June, she made some changes to the guidelines, which were then forwarded to City Attorney Bryan Callaway, who reviewed them to make sure they met legal standards.
After the public hearing, the Preservation Commission is expected to vote on whether to approve the guidelines. Committee members can also refuse or table or add or change these guidelines, Legals said.
“The Preservation Commission only makes a recommendation. It is the council of aldermen who will have final approval on everything,” she said.
After the Preservation Commission, the guidelines will go to the City Planning Commission for its recommendation.
The Planning Commission has its next meeting on Thursday, August 18 at 5:15 p.m., also in the council chambers at 115 S. Pearl St.
After obtaining a yes or no recommendation from the planning commission, the matter will be referred to the mayor and the college of aldermen, possibly as soon as they meet at 6 p.m. on August 23.
Legals said she recommended that the two commissions adopt the proposed guidelines for the murals.
“We looked at similar guidelines for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, St. Augustine and Savannah. St. Augustine is a bit older than Natchez, I think. Many of them have the same general recommendation. What we have in our proposed guidelines are the same things that the majority of these cities are using,” Legal said.
One of these guidelines is not to paint over old murals already on buildings in the historic district, even if they are in deteriorated condition.
“If you want to stay historic, you leave those there. If you can find a picture of it, maybe a homeowner wants to restore the mural. Most of the time, these are names of stores or businesses in the city. You don’t want to paint them, even if they are in poor condition. It’s history,” she said.