Nonprofit Lydia's House gets citation for murals on boarded-up Norwood building

NORWOOD, Ohio -- The corner of Mills and Carter avenues has seen some change lately, but one in particular caught Mayor Tom Williams' eye. Brightly-colored murals adorn the outside of a boarded-up building that nonprofit Lydia's House wants to renovate.

"I drove by and thought 'Wow, that's kind of neat,'" Williams said.

The goal for the building is to create eight permanent apartments for families experiencing homelessness. Lydia's House is raising money to replace the roof and start work inside. But Ben Eilerman, Lydia's House co-founder, said the group wanted to make a difference fast. So neighborhood kids painted the murals to give the building a little life. 

Eilerman soon learned the city code doesn't recognize murals. Instead, they're considered billboards -- and Lydia's House didn't have permission to put them up, so the nonprofit was cited.

"The way the signage code is currently defined... it defines an emphasis of beautifying a place, so we really think that by defining murals in it, we can really bring that intent to life," Eilerman said.

Williams likes the murals, but he stands by the process. Lydia's House goes before the city's Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday to ask if the murals can stay.

The mayor thinks they will.

"The good common-sense fairy comes and sprinkles some common-sense dust on everybody, and it's over," Williams said.

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