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Is it Adios for Bandito's Mural? 

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Is it Adios for Bandito's Mural?Scratch Like an EgyptianHomeless Medical Center Set To OpenResident and Grace Street Group Wrangle Over Paint JobFan District Association Finds A HomeIs it Adios for Bandito's Mural?

It's clear that the bandoleer-wearing, bugle-toting Mexican woman painted on the side of Bandito's Burrito Lounge on the 700 block of West Cary Street is waving a Mexican flag.

But is she waving "Adios?"

Perhaps, if the city zoning administration gets its way.

Rick Lyons, one of Bandito's owners, says a city zoning official approached him about six weeks ago and said the painting — which has graced the Laurel Street wall since the restaurant opened more than two years ago — was not in compliance with city zoning regulations. Local artist Ed Trask painted the mural.

The city considers the painting a sign, and sign size is calculated based on building square footage. The painted lady is bigger than Bandito's allotted signage.

So it has to go.

Ray Benbow, Richmond's zoning administrator, says the problem is that the city ordinance which defines the nature of a sign is extremely broad. Anything with numbers, letters, pictures, emblems or insignia that have anything to do with business interests or activities within a building is a sign. "It's not even a close call," Benbow says of the mural/sign.

Even some minor changes that Lyons suggested, like making the Mexican flag a blue sky, or the flag of Virginia, wouldn't change the fact that it's a sign.

"It's there to attract attention to the property," Benbow says. "That in and of itself constitutes a sign."

Lyons says that the city has been quite cordial about the problem they have with the mural/sign. His last hope is to apply for a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals. That would allow Bandito's to keep the sign even though it's technically not in compliance with a city ordinance. But he's not too hopeful.

In the meantime, he's putting a plywood wall, he hopes temporarily, over the mural to put them in compliance with the sign ordinance for now.

But Lyons says the sign hassle is just that.

"We're baffled," Lyons says. "We're standing there with our hands up in the air saying, 'We want to know what we can do.' And the only thing we can do is destroy a piece of art we put up on a wall, which we don't think is a viable solution."

— M.S.

Scratch Like an Egyptian

Think the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has gone too far in its promotion of its blockbuster Splendors of Ancient Egypt show by getting a special Egypt-themed scratch-off lottery ticket?

Think again.

The Virginia Museum's show didn't have anything to do with the Virginia Lottery's "Pharaoh's Gold" scratch-off ticket, launched May 19 and still selling briskly, says Virginia Lottery spokesman Ed Scarborough.

While the lottery has done tie-in tickets with other state agencies, like a "Virginia is for Lovers" ticket in conjunction with the state Department of Tourism, the Egyptian crossover was a coincidence that owes more to the general popularity of ancient Egypt than a direct attempt at cross-marketing, Scarborough says.

Scarborough says other states and countries such as Australia have turned to the popularity of ancient Egypt to sell lottery tickets. "Egyptian themes do have mass appeal in our focus groups," Scarborough says.

While the ticket uses images of artifacts from the Virginia Museum's collection, that's the extent of the connection, Scarborough says.

Asked if he thinks the popularity of the show will help drive lottery sales, Scarborough pauses.

"Who knows?" Scarborough says.

He thinks it might be the other way around. "In the end of it, who knows who drives who," Scarborough says.

— M.S.

Homeless Medical Center Set To Open

More than 10 years ago, Richmond homeless service providers identified the need for a facility to care for homeless people who needed medical care that fell short of emergency room treatment.

On July 15, that service gap will finally be closed when the five-bed Manor at Woodland Heights Adult Care Home opens on Semmes Avenue. Homeward, Richmond's Regional Response to Homelessness received in March a $120,000 grant from the Annabella R. Jenkins Foundation to fund the center.

"We're very excited," says Homeward executive director Reggie Gordon. "This is a very good thing for our community." Gordon says that the center will accept referral patients from area hospitals and shelters, and will be staffed by members of the Instructive Visiting Nurse Association. The grant will fund the center for two years, but Gordon hopes that by demonstrating the center's importance, more funding will be secured.

"There is a need," Gordon says. "I have a feeling that on the 15th or right after it, we'll begin to get people in the beds."

— M.S.

Resident and Grace Street Group Wrangle Over Paint Job

Grace Silverstein paid about $100,000 for a run-down West Grace Street house.

But her investment is costing her more than she bargained for in neighborhood hassles.

In February, Silverstein and her husband bought a duplex at 2305 W. Grace St. Over the next few months, they put about $45,000 into restoring the property.

Unfortunately, some of that restoration work involved painting once-white trim different shades of brown and beige.

West Grace has "Old and Historic" status, which means property owners have to clear paint color changes beforehand with the city's Commission for Architectural Review.

Silverstein didn't, and that's when she began paying the price.

On June 18, Silverstein received a rather hostile letter from the West Grace Street Association. In the letter, Silverstein was singled out as an opponent of the FDA's proposed Historic Preservation Guidelines, and her paint job was called, "a blatant attempt to circumvent review by the[CAR]."

The letter says that if she continues to change the exteriors of her Grace Street properties, the Association will "ask the Commission to consider using their punishments and penalties they have at their disposal."

"I'm furious about this letter," Silverstein says.

She says she was unaware of the need for prior CAR approval. "I'm not somebody that's going to deliberately go out here and do something I'm not supposed to do."

She has since contacted the CAR, and has a hearing scheduled on her paint colors for the end of July.

Roy Burgess, a former president of the West Grace Street group, says the letter is part of owning property in an old and historic area. "[Silverstein] didn't go through channels, and it was painted a color it wasn't before," Burgess says. "When you buy on West Grace, some of the baggage you have to deal with is the CAR."

Silverstein agrees, to a point. "I can deal with the Historic district," she explains. "But I can't live with nasty people."

— M.S.

Fan District Association Finds A Home

The Fan District Association (FDA) has been a presence in the city for 35 years.

And now the 1,000 member civic association has a Fan home all its own, a tiny, three-room former real estate office at 208 N. Strawberry St.

FDA President Paul Feine says the group first looked into purchasing office space about two years ago, but the original deal fell through. But "we kept an eye out for something that was suitable," Feine says.

The group closed on the house last month, for about $110,000, Feine estimates. He says that the money came mostly from the FDA's chief fund-raiser, the Christmas House Tour, along with donations from FDA board members and others. He says the FDA will kick off a fund-raising campaign in late summer, with the goal of paying off the mortgage on the new HQ within three years.

The FDA is in the process of moving files and FDA operations like the Fan Neighborhood Patrol into the offices.

"It's not very big," Feine says. "But it's a place to store materials and have a filing system to have the stuff that's now stored in a dozen basements around the Fan in one place."

The FDA board voted to buy the house at the April meeting. Feine says the announcement of the purchase, at the May FDA meeting, met with a surprising lack of resistance. "We expected a huge argument, and there wasn't a murmur. We were literally astounded," Feine says.

"Whatever we can accomplish with the building, we could accomplish without it, but it's going to be a lot more convenient and useful to ... people who do the nuts and bolts work of the FDA," Feine says. "We think it's an asset to the Fan."

— M.S.
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