Lighten up, Saugus

The Town of Saugus wants the mural on Cap World removed. (Owen O'Rourke)

Cap World has been a Route 1 business for 37 years. It is the type of business that is part Saugus’ landscape and a multi-decade taxpayer helping to pay for town services.

In return for its enduring presence on Saugus’ commercial byway, the town has seen fit, courtesy of an edict from Building Inspector Fred Varone, to declare Cap World in violation of the town sign bylaw.

To be clear, Cap World didn’t hang an ugly and offending sign on its storefront. It did exactly the opposite and commissioned muralist Philip Coleman to spend eight months decorating the front of Cap World’s building with a mural highlighting Route 1’s memorable landmarks. “We wanted to beautify it and pay tribute to the town and the history of Route 1,” said Cap World Manager Andrew Scott.

The town’s nine-page advertising sign and billboard bylaw prohibits signs covering more than 10 percent of the total area of the building wall they are placed on.

Coleman’s mural is made up of 22 pieces of painted sheet metal covering a 5 feet by 90 feet section of the Cap World storefront. Town Counsel John Vasapolli is backing up Varone’s demand to have the sign removed and Scott plans to cover up the mural.

We think it is a shame that Saugus is taking a narrow, bureaucratic stance against a long-established local business. Cap World isn’t simply trying to find a new approach to luring in customers. It is doing its share to positively and creatively contribute to the changing face of Route 1.

As Scott accurately observed, “old” Route 1 has all but disappeared. Kowloon and the Fern’s Motel sign continue to stand the test of time, but the orange dinosaur has a new home and the Hilltop cactus got a makeover.

Scott and Coleman deserve praise for depicting the last remnants of old Route 1 in their mural and for celebrating public art at a time when murals are invigorating communities.

Lynn’s Beyond Walls murals added a new dimension to the city’s downtown. The giant paintings coexist with an urban environment while enhancing it. Coleman, who has a résumé of painting 100 murals, took the same approach to celebrating Route 1.

Now is as good as any time for Saugus to step back from overregulation enforcement and abandon lawsuits and quit notices in favor of supporting efforts to encourage the type of ingenuity shown by Cap World.

Most people who drive by Cap World will give the business and its mural a two-second glance on their way up and down Route 1. Cap World customers will undoubtedly appreciate Coleman’s mural for what it is: An ode to a road where tacky often trumped tasteful and eye-catching was once the rule of the day.

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