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Daily photos by Emily Saunders
313 Oak St. has been cited for junk and scrap in the yard. The unusual paint job, however, does not violate any city ordinance. The smiley face, above, was later painted over, below.

Neighbors
aren’t laughing

Smiley face appeared, vanished after complaint filed with city

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

The smiley face with one eye winking and tongue sticking out that was painted on a dilapidated shed in back of a home at 313 Oak St. may have been unsightly to neighbors, but it did not violate city ordinances or historical regulations. Neither does the neon yellow paint on the house.

The condition of the home and junk and scrap in the yard, however, are violations for which city officials warned C. Winford and Melba Jean Clark.

“They have made some progress and they have until Aug. 8 to complete them,” said David Lee, who is code enforcement officer with the Department of Community Development.

The yellow paint and smiley face appeared after city officials cited the Clarks.

Neighbors, apparently unhappy with the smiley face and paint, called The Daily. The newspaper photographed the face Tuesday. After The Daily contacted the home owner again Thursday someone painted over the face.

Lee said neighborhood complaints led to an inspection and ultimately a citation for the Clarks.

After the face appeared on, Lee said complaints shifted to the color scheme, which includes yellow, white, black and red.

Melba Clark, who owns the home with her husband, said she was not aware that the face was on the shed until a Daily reporter contacted her Tuesday.

She said she has an idea who painted the face, but declined to say.

Kathy Taylor and her husband live at 317 Oak St. They have their home for sale and support Decatur’s efforts to rejuvenate the city. They are restoring another house in the district.

She said it’s a shame for the neighborhood to let homes in the historic district go down.

“This kind of stuff brings the value of other homes down and is a step backwards for the city,” Taylor said.

Paint rules

She said she thought the preservation commission had to approve paint color in the historic district.

Decatur’s property maintenance codes require structures not constructed of some naturally protective material to have a protective coating of paint.

“But what color is not governed in the code,” Lee said.

Although the Clark house is in the city’s historic district, there are no regulations that prohibit them from using neon yellow paint or painting the smiley face.

“They can paint it purple stripes and pink polka dots,” said Melinda Dunn, director of Decatur’s Old State Bank.

Dunn is a non-voting member of the Decatur Historic Preservation Commission.

Commission rules relating to paint only govern brick and stone homes whose exterior walls are unpainted.

That’s the problem the late Morgan County Sheriff Steve Crabbe had when he painted his brick home without getting permission from the commission.

“If Decatur had tried to tell people what color to use, the rules we have in the historic district probably never would have passed,” Dunn said.

Other issues

Aside for the paint, there are other issues at 313 Oak St. that Clark said her son is helping resolve.

The son resides out of state and that’s why the city gave them an extension to correct the violations, she said.

Lee said he cited the Clarks mostly for failing to comply with international maintenance property codes relating to the exteriors of the home and shed.

“The notice dealt with them cleaning up and making some repairs,” Lee said. “We’re still monitoring the situation.”

The Clarks have lived in the home for more than 40 years and have never had any problems with neighbors, she said.

“None of the neighbors have been person enough to come talk to us in person,” Clark said.

“I would like to know what the neighbors problems are and why they have not talked to us personally. We don’t want to have problems with our neighbors.”

According to the Morgan County Revenue Commissioner’s office, the home was constructed in 1910 and is valued at $61,700.

The home is listed in “fair” condition and the shed where the face was painted has no value listed.

While city officials have received more complaints about the Clark property, Lee said he has also issued notices to properties at 314 and 522 Oak St. for minor junk and maintenance issues.

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