Luck Of The Irish? Not!

In the small town of Portage, Michigan, you might notice the sight of a giant dot, painted a virulent Kelly green, decorating the roof of a preschool. It's kind of hard to miss.

The owner of the Shamrock Montessori Center, Michael Quinn, decided to paint the dot in May of 2010, to hide the logo he'd painted of a 16 foot shamrock after city officials explained that he was in violation of a local ordinance against signs. But as it turns out, the dot also violates this ordinance. During the third week of June, Quinn received a letter telling him the dot is against the zoning code of Portage, which makes it illegal.

Painted Circle

Quinn said he changed the shamrock into a circle to please the city yet they are still unhappy with his work. Michael Quinn is active on the local Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. Commenting on the displeasure of the city, Quinn says, "I wasn't happy to paint it into a circle, either."

Quinn has been given until the 30th of June to comply with city ordinances or be charged with civil infraction as well as receive a $50 fine. He says he has no problem with the city's demands and will be meeting the deadline by coating the entire roof with Kelly green paint.  

Solid Color

Head of the city's Department of Community Development, Jeff Erickson says the city has no problem with that idea. A solid roof color is just the ticket.

Zoning codes for the city have made signs illegal unless they are either attached to a wall or freestanding, that is in areas zoned as residential, such as the area in which Quinn has his business. Erickson says the city considers the dot a sign since it is a permanent mark painted on the roof, can be seen by the public, and helps bring attention to Quinn's preschool.

Erickson further says that there's nothing really novel or complicated about this issue. The zoning code contains a definition of what is considered a sign. Erickson's committee has the job of making sure the ordinance is enforced, which is all they are trying to do. He says there is no intention to take an adversarial position against Quinn.

But Quinn says the definition as marked on ordinance is quite broad and this leads not only to "spotty enforcement" but also to the purposeful targeting of individuals. Quinn feels as though the city is picking on a small business, his own.

Erickson just wants to resolve this issue so that the town of Portage can move on to other, more important problems. But the next time you decide to get creative in painting your roof, you might want to stop and check into city ordinances, first.