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Taylor Harrison's cafe - Nurd Berger- is built around a Star Wars theme and "culture." With the recent release of Rogue One and the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, San Carlos artists Carrie Curley and Robert Wilson offered to do a mural celebrating the star, the movie and the local cafe. While the mural is seen as fine art to some, the complaint to the city termed it "historical blight." Photo by LCGross

Nurd Berger owner cited for violating city sign code

Mayor wants Nurd Berger grandfathered in after codes are fixed

Whether a sign or a mural or whether one supports or despises the new artwork on the side of the popular Nurd Berger Café, its appearance soon after the death of actress Carrie Fisher in December has raised questions about what is acceptable to the community and to Globe city code.

Nurd Berger, which is just north of Hwy. 60 on Hill Street in Globe, has a bit of a cult following with its grilled sandwiches, coffee, gaming and occasional live music. The tiny restaurant is crammed with high school students, out-of-towners and regulars from lunch to dinner time.

Two years ago, Taylor Harrison bought the building, which was a rundown flower shop, as well as the house directly behind it. Most of the money he makes at the café goes into restoring the historical house – built in 1905 – on the property, he said.

He learned two things after the artists began work on the mural. The first was that he may need a city permit to paint the sign or mural, and the second was that his property was located in the historical preservation district. “I didn’t think of it as a sign,” he said. “I told them to let me know if I needed a permit and I would get one.”

This photo was taken while the Nurd Berger mural was in the process of being painted. Contributed photo

Chris Collopy, director of Planning and Zoning and the city building inspector, said the historic district was expanded to include the old Hill Street School owned by Glen Wilt during Mayor Fernando Shipley’s administration. “He believed that part of Globe needed extra protection,” Collopy said to the City Council during its Feb. 28 meeting. Nurd Berger is directly across the street from the old school and is part of the historical preservation district.

Globe Mayor Al Gameros asked Harrison if he was previously aware that his property was part of the district, and he said, “No.”

Harrison applied for a sign permit after the painting was completed, and the issue was placed on the Feb. 28 agenda for council discussion and decision. Because inconsistencies were discovered in city code regarding signs, the council tabled the item for a future meeting.

The café owner said he was issued a continuance by the municipal court.

Permit Question

Harrison was issued three citations for the art that covers most of the southern side of his building. According the City Manager Paul Jepson, the primary reason was that he had not obtained a permit for the sign. “In general, that is why the city got involved,” he said. Two of the citations were issued because of city code violations, and the third because of a preservation district violation.

The painting is considered a sign despite its mural-like properties because about 75 percent of it is the name of the establishment and has a commercial purpose, according to Jepson. The city does not have code that deals with murals at this time.

While researching Globe city codes regarding signage, it was discovered that they were inconsistent with each other, and Jepson said there was also a change in the law that had to be considered moving forward.

Some signs in Globe are grandfathered because they were already in place long before the current codes were on the books. An example is the Hill Street Mall, which is just a few building down the street from Nurd Berger and features a green hill topped by what appears to be a white picket fence spelling out the word “Hill.” Jepson said this particular painting was already in existence when Globe passed the 2003 International Building Codes in 2010.

The Hill Street Mall is just a block from Nurd Berger and also sports a store sign on the side of their building, which was grandfathered in 2010 when City Council passed the 2003 International Building Codes. Photo by LCGross

“Signs like that one predate the 2010 action,” he said.

Mayor Gameros said everything is on hold – the citations and any decisions regarding the sign – until after the city fixes its and the Historical Preservation District’s codes. “We need to take a look at the process, fix the codes to make sure they are in line with the law. . . Then we need to move on from this point forward.”

By moving on, Gameros explained that it was his hope that any of the signs or murals in existence, including Nurd Berger’s, before the council makes its decision in the next couple of months would be grandfathered in.

Linda Oddonetto, the city manager’s executive assistant, issued a statement to local news agencies: “The City of Globe greatly appreciates the cooperation of Taylor Harrison, the owner of Nurd Berger.  The city’s intent is to be supportive and consistent in enforcement of City Codes to all businesses and residents.   Small, local businesses, like Nurd Berger, are vital to our Historic Downtown area and our community.”

Michelle Yerkovich, Globe’s code enforcement officer, said Harrison was very cooperative and willing to comply with city codes. “He is a stand-up businessman,” she said.

Jepson said, “Our intentions are to apply to codes equally to all people. If they are in conflict with each other, we will take the time to fix them so they are consistent.”

About Aimee Staten

Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.

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