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Naples City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday in favor of the first reading of an ordinance that would dissipate the city’s Public Art Advisory Committee and transfer its responsibility to the Community Services Advisory Board. 

The committee was created to encourage public art through development. New businesses seeking to display art outside their buildings first had to receive approval from the city’s Design Review Board, followed by Public Arts Advisory approval before it reached Council. 

In 2019, Council approved the committee’s recommendation to adopt a Public Art Master Plan with the goal of guiding the future of public art and reflecting the character of the city. The 24-page document was never officially approved by Council. 

City staff will continue developing the plan. Councilor Ray Christman said he wants to ensure the draft, which a consultant was hired to develop, isn’t forgotten. 

“We’re not going to let [the plan] just go. We’ll continue and we’ll figure it out,” said Chad Merritt, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities. “There were a lot of concerns from this Council that were never addressed, and we plan to at least work through those.” 

Councilor Paul Perry said the master plan should be redeveloped. 

“I think that master plan, the way it’s drafted, is totally worthless,” Perry said. “It would be better to start all over again, because it has a completely different concept of public art than what I sense this Council is thinking. They don’t line up at all.” 

As of the last Public Art Advisory Committee meeting in March, there were five members on the board. In 2023, there have been three meetings averaging 45 minutes apiece. 

Councilor Ted Blankenship said art planned in front of private properties should be the responsibility of the Design Review Board, while pubic art should be evaluated by the Community Services Advisory Board. Councilor Mike McCabe said that would lead to a lack of communication between the two boards, and all private projects should go through the community services board and then to the design board. 

“I don’t see any reason that it has to go through that [Community Services] step when it’s on private property,” Christman said. “I think the [Design Review Board] has proven to be very reputable, sound judgement, and I think how that incorporates into the private property, that’s the best place for it.” 

The ordinance to dissipate the Public Arts Advisory Committee will have a second reading in front of Council at a later date.  

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