Our opinion: The Crary conundrum

Seldom in the annals of Warren City government has the display of three words been so vexing: “Crary Art Gallery.”

It all started when the artsy folks at Warren’s non-profit, public gallery (actually something of a rarity in its scope and quality for a town the size of Warren) had the audacity to place a tasteful, appropriately designed sign on the front of their building.

Alas, the sign was larger than the exacting standards in the city’s sign ordinance, even though it seemed to fit perfectly with the architecture and size of the building in question.

Those who have lived in Warren for longer than they care to confess may recall when the Crary house was built and the controversy generated by its modern, minimalist design. Some detractors named it “Fort Apache.” So, the current pecadillo over its name tag is somehow in keeping with its history.

Nevertheless, a law is a law, and something just had to be done about that size-challenged sign, as well as the offense of not following proper procedure before its erection, an offense to which the gallery folks have tacitly admitted.

Now, in a bit of tasty irony, the board of the Crary Art Gallery, after having removed the offending object, has brought before the city the same sign with an addition. Thus the sign would not be a sign, but rather a marquee. At the bottom of the thing formerly known as a sign would be a panel that promotes current and future art shows, programs and other activities of the gallery.

Presto-chango: A marquee.

You see, there is a codicil in the sign ordinance that provides an exemption for marquees, which it defines as “(a)ny sign attached to a marquee for the purpose of identifying a movie theater or similar place of entertainment,” Warren City Sign Ordinance 2:19.

“Disingenuous,” proclaimed the mayor and city manager, while two members of City Council pleaded that the matter, which has festered in their agendas for many months, be settled simply through a vote so that everyone could get on with their lives.

So, when the discussion had run its course, council decided to wash its own hands and place the matter in its solicitor’s mitts. The solicitor, after poring over the ordinance and perhaps reams of case law, will be the arbiter of what the authors of the sign ordinance were thinking when they wrote it and report her findings back to council.