Fate of Brewmasters artwork could be decided Thursday

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The debate over the painting on the side of Brewmasters could reach a head Thursday evening at the Wilson City Council meeting.

Officials will hear from staff and the public regarding a text amendment to the unified development ordinance to provide regulations of artistic murals. Currently the ordinance has one sentence regarding murals, noting that no permit is required.

Brewmasters commissioned an artist in the fall of 2016 to paint a mural, but in early 2017, city staff determined the size of the word ‘Brewmasters’ made the artwork a sign and the size violated the city ordinance. Brewmasters owner Morkos Youssef fought the violation with the help of Farris & Farris attorney Rhyan Breen, but in May, Wilson Chief Planning and Development Officer Rodger Lentz sided with his staff and upheld the violation.

In an effort to save the artwork, Breen was given two paths to appeal the decision, including submitting an application for a text amendment to clarify the ordinance and grandfather the mural into compliance. Earlier this month, members of the Planning and Design Review Board agreed to clearer regulation of murals, but voted against including a clause that would OK the Brewmasters painting.

The board’s recommendation was sent to the Wilson City Council, which can vote to uphold the board’s recommendation, make alterations to the staff-presented amendment or table the matter for further discussion.

The subject is one of the public hearings scheduled for the 7 p.m. meeting. Another public hearing will be about an application through the Wilson Housing Authority for $750,000 in federal funding to construct 30 public housing units on Walnut, Banks and Dew streets.

Other items on the agenda include a rezoning request for 3015 and 3023 Forest Hills Road, the sale of 108 Barnes St. for redevelopment by Ches Joyner and an application for state funds to assist with urgent housing repairs.

Also up for action is the use of eminent domain for easements associated with the U.S. 301 redevelopment project. City staff reportedly reached agreement with some property owners for easements necessary for construction, but no deal could be struck with other property owners and the use of eminent domain is necessary, according to the council resolution.