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Sign Police Come for Bakery’s Moose Mural

Town officials hit the business with a violation for its painted mural, taking a firm stance on fun.

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Credit: Tabernacle Arts and Design, Facebook

An illegal moose mural has been spotted in Medford, NJ, and the town’s zoning board is instructing all units to stand by.

You’ll find the brick-wall painting at Maggie Moose Bakery, which Medford officials slapped with a violation notice for infringing on the town’s sign ordinance.

Depicting the bakery’s mascot, the mural features Maggie Moose in a yellow-green circle, surrounded by a pink background with a mix of colored sprinkles. It was created by the nearby Tabernacle Arts and Design studio.

The notice of violation, according to the Medford Sun, says Maggie Moose’s inclusion in the mural makes it a business sign. Bakery owner Candy Thibeau now has two options: Repaint the mural to remove the moose logo (i.e., destroy the mural), or apply for a bulk variance to keep the painting as is (which will require a lawyer, among other expenses).

Delivering the notice was the easy part for government officials, though. The hard part is where things went south at Waco – holding the line and digging in for a protracted standoff.

It’s hard to argue the board has an alternative, like retracting the notice, or reconsidering the merits of an ordinance that produces “violations” of a harmless nature.

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But Medford’s zoning officers weren’t born yesterday. They know what happens when laws aren’t enforced. Crime rises. People get hurt. Society breaks down.

People need defenders in the face of lawlessness. They need their local governments and police to break up organized retail crime rings, to stem the flow of illicit drugs in our communities, to thwart the scourge of unauthorized signpainting, to stop anarchy before it starts.

Fortunately for Medford residents, the town’s zoning board has volunteered as their lionhearted champion, ready and willing to pounce on small businesses and local artists who think they can willy-nilly paint a moose mural without a bulk variance.

After Thibeau received the notice of violation on Sept. 6, she appealed to the board with a two-page letter asking them to reconsider.

“The outcome is unknown. I am not a chain with unlimited funds,” she wrote on Facebook. “It’s ultimately my goal not to put myself out of business for this fight, so we will come up with something else within code that we will do should we have to cross that bridge. Right now, it’s overwhelming. These bylaws are put in place to protect the community, but some are real head scratchers for sure.”

Thibeau has yet to hear from the bylaw officer to whom her appeal was addressed. Town residents, on the other hand, have reached their verdict.

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The widespread community support for the mural is documented by the Pine Barrens Tribune, which explains how the standoff has become a “public relations disaster for the Medford Township government.” That characterization is supported by comments on the bakery’s Facebook page, which is also replete with photos of children and their parents taking selfies in front of Maggie Moose.

If you’re a Garden State resident who thinks this situation sounds familiar, your deja vu is real.

A coffee shop in Cedar Grove, NJ was recently cited by the town’s government for having an illegal mural as constituted under the local sign ordinance. The business owner took the dispute to court and was initially ruled against, but he won on appeal in April.

Should the moose mural ever become legally disputed, one can only hope Maggie’s fate is decided by a judge with similar sensibilities, or at least one with a distaste for joy-killing proceduralism.

The court system can be spared this conflict, though. The Medford officials who are reviewing Thibeau’s appeal can instead listen to their community and end the losing fight they’ve picked with it. After five weeks of staring down a moose painting they didn’t sanction, it’s time to turn off the sirens and retract the violation forthwith.

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Jesse Burkhart is the digital content editor for Signs of the Times.

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