Leesburg Council Eyes Pilot Program for Murals on Businesses

The Leesburg Town Council appears poised to move forward with a pilot program that would permit murals on private commercial buildings—just not in the historic district.

The subject came before the council again at their work session Monday. The council had previously discussed the idea of permitting murals on private buildings in May. Currently, murals are only permitted on government-owned buildings in town.

As in May, council members continued to express misgivings about permitting murals on private residential buildings. They, like Town Attorney Christopher Spera, acknowledged that First Amendment rights need to be taken into consideration.

“There’s a very slippery slope if you attempt to do some regulation” on mural content, Spera said. 

There was unanimous vocal support for trying the program on for size, and limiting it to commercial properties outside of the Old & Historic District, or H-1. There was also talk of prohibiting the murals from being advertisements for a business, but the subject looks to be studied further in developing the pilot program.

Vice Mayor Marty Martinez suggested, and his council colleagues supported, forming a task force with members from the Board of Architectural Review, Economic Development Commission, and Commission on Public Art. The task force would be charged with developing the framework for a pilot program for private commercial murals, and would report back to the council with a status update in four months. The council had suggested a six-month timeframe for forming the program, but appeared willing to extend that window if committee members ask for more time at the four-month mark. 

Among the items the task force will need to consider would be what the approval process for commercial murals would look like. Several council members said they believed that ultimately the council would need to be the final arbiter of review, but initial review from the Board of Architectural Review or Commission on Public Art may be appropriate.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

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