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Paonia trustees pass street painting policy

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The controversial "Painted Streets in Paonia Policy and Process," and a related proposal for a mural to be painted on a residential street surface, were passed by a 5-1 vote, with trustee Susanne Watson casting the dissenting vote. Throughout policy discussion, the lines were often blurred between the two items, since the street painting proposal hinged on passage of the policy.

The policy defines a painted street project as "a mural that is painted by a community group on the pavement at an intersection or mid-point of residential streets," and includes a list of rules and a 16-point permit process.

Each project must get approval of the board of trustees following review by the public works committee.

Asking for clarification, trustee Charles Stewart addressed town manager Jane Berry: "But approval of one project by this board would not in any way be incisive in any way of approving or disapproving any future project designs?"

"That is correct," replied Berry. Approval of any proposal does not set precedent. "The same would apply to any of our permit processes."

The process, said Berry, is about exercising good judgment.

Watson, who has been outspoken against the draft policy, called the whole situation "flawed" and "loosey-goosey... I feel very uncomfortable about it." Watson also requested that the issue be tabled while the town form a public arts committee to help guide them through the decision-making policy.

"I don't find the para-meters at all loosey-goosey," said trustee Eric Goold. "I think it's very clear what the parameters are and I also think it's clear it's a case-by-case basis." Goold added that it is tradition for town boards to pass policy.

Residents Sue Strong and Alice Vanvleet spoke against the proposal again at last week's meeting. Strong said that while the project is intended to bring the community together, it has done the opposite.

Strong submitted a petition against the project with 92 signatures, and requested four revisions, including an exemption for streets located at intersections where churches are located, and that the draft be "better stated."

She also suggested a "compromise" of creation of a chalk festival, to include all area youth. "It would bring people together instead of divide them," said Strong.

Vanvleet said she spoke to many residents who never heard of painted streets. "The people are all concerned that you're running things through council and no one knows anything about them," said Vanvleet.

During discussion of the application for the street painting, trustee Charles Stewart reminded attendees that the project has approval of the majority of neighbors and Paonia Elementary School staff and principal, that the image contains no political or other controversial message, and will not be funded by taxpayers.

"We're talking about a piece of public art which the town is not paying for. There is no way we're ever going to get complete agreement of any artwork," said Stewart.

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