The Arlington City Council postponed a decision on the rezoning case for new student housing on Center Street during its Tuesday evening meeting. It also worked in the afternoon on amending the city’s mural policy.
If passed, the new student housing option would have 391 dwelling units in two, five-story buildings, according to a staff report. Other amenities include a swimming pool, dog park and three open-space courtyards.
The applicant, Atlantic Student Housing, requested the city change the zoning on multiple areas from its original zoning to plan development. However, a council member brought up concerns about the lack of underground utilities and spacing issues.
This discussion ended with the developers requesting a continuance on the matter, meaning the issue is delayed from the council voting on it.
During the afternoon work session, city council members discussed amending Arlington’s mural policy and some gave suggestions such as extending the city’s definition of murals to include other forms of artwork like mosaics and expanding the allowed areas.
The council’s discussion came after artist Juan Velázquez’s mural faced the threat of possible removal in April, according to previous Shorthorn reporting. The mural, located on the upcoming second location of Gilberto’s Taco Shop along the 600 block of West Park Row Drive, depicts Rougned Odor, former Texas Rangers second baseman, punching Blue Jays’ player José Bautista.
When Gilberto’s owner José Ruiz filed permits for additional signage on his new restaurant, the city said the mural violated the development code and must be removed before the permits could be granted. Velázquez then turned to social media, where many protested the removal.
Bowie Hogg, District 7 city council member representing the entire city, conferred with the city manager, who then postponed the removal until the city council reviews the current policy.
Currently, Arlington does not require a permit, but murals are only allowed in the Downtown Business zoning district and the Entertainment District Overlay with certain conditions, according to the Unified Development Code.
Some of those conditions are one mural per building, and it must be painted with weather-resistant paint. If the mural degrades severely, the owner shall repair or remove it within 60 days. No portion of the mural can be used to advertise, but it may display the tenant’s name or logo on no more than 20% of the mural area, with the proper sign permit.
Velázquez’s mural is not located in an allowed area. Other murals like the ones on Jambo’s BBQ on Division Street and Betty's Salón Barberia on New York Avenue are also outside the area.
The city won’t take action on the murals outside of the currently allowed areas until the new code is approved, said Gincy Thoppil, the city’s Planning and Development Services director. This includes Velázquez’s mural.
Other cities like Denton require approval from the city council and are limited to the downtown district. Fort Worth and Dallas consider murals public art and do not require approval as long as the mural doesn’t contain advertisements.
Andrew Piel, District 4 council member, said he would have an issue with murals in residential areas but he would be open-minded to other commercial districts and appropriate areas.
Some council members raised concerns about murals showcasing inappropriate images. Piel said people can make provocative murals that might offend some.
“I want stuff that pulls the city together and makes everybody feel good about the city, rather than something that could drive us apart,” he said.
The code is still developing, Thoppil said. The council has given direction for the code and it will need to be presented to the council members again before approval.
The council also approved formally naming the under-construction Active Adult Center as ACTIV during the evening meeting. On April 25, the council discussed potential names and selected ACTIV.
The center will offer adults 50 and over various programs and amenities focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, according to previous Shorthorn reporting. The $55 million project broke ground Jan. 9 and is scheduled to open in winter 2024.
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