Illegal murals get one-week reprieve

The Oregon Department of Transportation has extended the deadline for when illegally installed murals must come down from a Lithia Way overpass to give the Ashland City Council time to weigh in.

Local attorney and developer Lloyd Haines had murals by four local artists installed on Sept. 5 on the underside of the Lithia Way bridge that crosses Water Street. But he did so without getting an electrical permit for lighting the murals or an exception from city of Ashland sign code rules that restrict murals.

He also did not get permission from ODOT, which has jurisdiction over the bridge.

Earlier this week, Haines had planned to take the murals down on Friday, a few days before ODOT's Sunday deadline for their removal. At the same time, he had asked that the issue be placed before the City Council on Tuesday night.

City Administrator Martha Bennett agreed to place the issue on the council's agenda.

Haines said on Wednesday afternoon that he is not taking the murals down on Friday as he had previously planned. Instead, he wants councilors &

if they have any interest in having the murals remain as public art &

to refer the issue to city staff and the Ashland Public Arts Commission for review.

Meanwhile, ODOT has granted Haines a one-week extension to remove the murals, Bennett said.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

However, Bennett said the murals issue is scheduled after agenda items that include a condominium conversion ordinance, an ethics ordinance and a community policing implementation report and Taser discussion. Bennett said if the meeting goes smoothly, councilors could begin talking about the murals at about 9:30 p.m. If not, they may run out of time before the mandatory meeting stop time of 10:30 p.m.

ODOT officials previously said they would be open to having the murals remain if the city of Ashland submitted a letter by Sept. 20 offering support for the mural project and stating the city wants to begin a state permit process.

City staff members and Mayor John Morrison concluded earlier that the city did not have the time or inclination to support a project done in violation of so many rules and outside a public process.

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