The issue of regulating murals resurfaced before the city board again on Tuesday with discussion centering on the challenge of balancing free speech and community standards.

Local artist Cody Crotts, who has some potential clients interested in having a mural painted, requested to address the Corinth Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the ongoing moratorium and the city’s move toward regulations. He has already painted multiple murals in the city, including the one on Tate Street of the new state flag before it was adopted as the official Mississippi banner.

For some, the mural issue has overstayed its welcome. The board first enacted the moratorium in October 2020.

“We’ve never had a moratorium for a year,” said Alderman Chip Wood, describing it as “absolutely ridiculous.”

On Tuesday, the board received a new draft of possible regulations to consider, with the hope of possibly putting the issue to rest at the next meeting on Nov. 16.

About five months ago, the board had decided to have the mural regulations included in the proposed Envision 2040 development code rather than adopting an ordinance. Wood, who has made his opposition to regulating murals clear from the beginning, said the proposal that would have gone into the Envision plan “was freedom of speech thrown out the window.”

Cities that regulate murals typically have a permit process and guidelines for content, size, location and maintenance of the mural. Some require the paintings to be original, hand-rendered works with no copyrighted images. Some that have historic districts also require a historic preservation review.

Crotts believes murals are positive for the city. After painting the flag, the 26-year-old got a gig to paint one in downtown Tupelo.

“It’s like we’re onto something here,” he said.

As an artist, he is concerned about the subjective nature of regulating paintings.

“It’s not necessarily something you can say, ‘This is right and this is wrong,’” said Crotts.

It was the flag mural that prompted concerns about what might be next and, thus, the moratorium.

“We were all elected to protect this community,” said Alderman Ben Albarracin, “to make it thrive and grow, and I just don’t want to take a chance of opening the door without doing as much homework as we can for somebody to come in and paint something or do something that could jeopardize our community.”

Mayor Tommy Irwin also expressed concern about possible inappropriate content, and Alderman Michael McFall said he is concerned about “community standards.”

Lane Yoder, The Alliance’s community development director, shares those concerns and suggested the city can create an application process that steers murals in the right direction, taking some of the burden off of the approving entity.

“I get free speech,” she said to Wood. “I get where you are coming from.”

Mayor Tommy Irwin complimented Crotts’ work and leadership.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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