A downtown Vernon heritage building on 30th Avenue was decorated with unwanted graffiti by an unknown individual, though he/she did ‘sign’ their work. The incident happened overnight March 5 to 6. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

A downtown Vernon heritage building on 30th Avenue was decorated with unwanted graffiti by an unknown individual, though he/she did ‘sign’ their work. The incident happened overnight March 5 to 6. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Downtown Vernon graffiti upsets heritage building owner

Reiner Stass received unsolicited ‘art’ on his 30th Avenue building and is left to foot the bill

He didn’t ask for it. He doesn’t want it.

But Reiner Stass is now responsible for removing a piece of unsolicited artwork painted on the side of his downtown Vernon heritage building.

Stass, a longtime Vernon realtor, is the owner of the former MacKenzie Men’s Wear building in the 3200-block of 30th Avenue, now home to an interior design boutique on the lower floor and a tattoo parlour upstairs.

He was alerted by a tenant of the building that sometime overnight on March 5 and 6, as somebody climbed onto the roof of the neighbouring business and drew some graffiti on Stass’ antique brick building.

“I’m really frustrated,” Stass said. “(Graffiti-tagging) is an issue that’s getting worse in downtown on top of all the other problems associated with downtown. It costs people dearly.”

The City of Vernon’s graffiti bylaw, established in 2006, says each owner and occupant is required at all times to maintain graffiti-free walls, fences, buildings or structures located on the property. This applies to any part of the property that could be viewed by a neighbour.

In other words, if Stass wanted to keep the graffiti, he would have sought approval from city hall. If not, he is responsible for its removal. He figures the cost will be around $2,000 to $3,000.

“Whoever is the ‘artist,’ he or she seems to know what to do, but they should still respect the property,” Stass said.

The artwork is “signed,” which is the artist’s way of letting people know it’s his or her work and wants to be recognized for it, as pointed out by Rachael Zubick, the City of Vernon’s community safety co-ordinator for public programs.

Asked what recourses a building owner has, Zubick sighed and admitted graffiti and tagging is a worldwide issue.

“You have to catch them in the act,” she said. “Install camera systems, get pictures of them that clearly identify them. If you want to press charges against the individual, Crown counsel will need things like this to even consider going ahead with charges.”

Zubick said the difference between the so-called artwork taggers are painting and other graffiti-inspired artworks, technically, is permission.

If a building owner wants to have the side of a building painted, similar to the murals that decorate the downtown core, they must get permission from the city to do so. If they don’t have permission, it’s an offence. It’s vandalism.

Zubick’s department oversees an anti-tagging team, which returned in the summer months of 2019 after several years on hiatus.

The team, made up of university students, will be in place at the end of May and the program running this summer starting in June.

They are able to help remove unwanted graffiti as long as the building owner provides the equipment needed. But it also depends on the surface.

Antique bricks, like the ones on Stass’ building, will likely not be eligible for the team to remove graffiti from, nor will the team go up a ladder.

Stass is offering a reward for any information about the graffiti on his building. He can be reached via email at chlvernon@shaw.ca.

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roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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