Springs murals draw flak, spur meeting

Rico Martin's designs have residents butting heads|

Springs residents will be able to express either their like or dislike of the murals that are adorning buildings along Highway 12 at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 27, in the Altimira multipurpose room.

The meeting is being hosted by the Springs Community Alliance and will include 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, a representative of the county’s Community Development Commission and Rico Martin, the Sebastopol designer who stirred the pot (not to mention the paint). Gorin said they were hoping to have someone from PRMD, the Permit and Resource Management Department, but the person who has been working on the permits is on vacation.

Martin has contracted with eight businesses along Highway 12 to turn what he described as a drab corridor into a montage of color using funds from the county’s façade improvement program.

But not everyone shares his artistic vision.

Some critics were vocal at last week’s Springs Community Alliance meeting claiming that the paint colors Martin is using don’t conform to a set of 20-year-old guidelines for the Springs.

One of the more vocal critics has been Gina Cuclis, who has filed papers of intent to run for supervisor in next year’s primary.

Since then, there have been long discussions on the Springs Community Alliance’s Facebook page with both opponents and proponents chirping at each other in sometimes lengthy posts.

And there’s a Change.org petition called “stop the madness in BHS.”

The petition, which doesn’t list an author, says “Join us in demanding this ‘PROJECT’ in BHS be stopped and put on hold. This project was passed through Sonoma County without the scrutiny of design review, because it was JUST PAINT.... this is not just paint!! It is an inappropriate representation of what we want our town’s upgrade to be. Go to Rico Martin’s website wONEder.org to view the injustices which will soon be imposed on our community, without our community input. AND ALL PAID FOR WITH OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS. The Plain Jane building is getting painted now, 3 buildings to go.!”

Gorin’s office has received a number of complaints about the new facades.

Responding to the emails, Gorin’s office said, “Painting does not require a permit, thus the businesses that are using Rico to rehabilitate their facades did not go through a formal review process.” 

However, Gorin aides added that “at Supervisor Gorin’s insistence” Martin presented his designs to both the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission and the Springs Community Alliance so that he could receive community feedback. 

“While the Sonoma County Community Development Commission does offer façade improvement loans, we do not require any particular contractor be used for the work,” continued the response. “In this instance, one of the Springs business owners found Rico Martin and introduced him to other ?the business owners. There was no requirement that businesses utilize Rico’s services, and the business owners and Rico worked together to develop the designs.”

Thursday, Gorin said the meeting would be a great community conversation about the Springs in connection for a longer conversation as part of a planning grant.

Translation services will be available at the meeting.

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