Though he was prepared to do so, it turned out that Brent Herling has not had to repaint Northwest Dallas' longest, funkiest mural all by himself. Paintbrush-wielding volunteers have flocked to the half mile of wall along Forest Lane, eager to help restore the masterwork left by W.T. White students in 1976. The giant armadillo is once again clearly headed toward the Downtown skyline. The moon's cleft chin is more clearly defined than it has been in years. The Starship Enterprise looks like it's just soared off the showroom floor.
It's been inspiring, really, how the neighborhood has come together to save its quirkiest landmark. The mood is pretty well captured in this five-minute YouTube documentary. What type of cold-hearted asshole could possibly be against such a joyous outpouring of community spirit?
Danny Scott, that's who. Scott, a real estate broker whose home backs up to the wall, took to a neighborhood message board over the weekend to voice his general displeasure with the project.
We have been VERY emphatic that we DO NOT WANT THE WALL ON OUR PROPERTY repainted with this HIDEOUS EYE SORE!!!!! No matter what lies you have been told, it is NOT public property. It is on private property; in this specific case, MY property. Still, our wishes have been ignored, and most recently, someone had the unmitigated GALL to paint "PLEASE PAINT ME SAT 9:00 AM" on my section of the wall! Further, these people who are perpetuating this unsightly travesty, are also vandalizing the sidewalk (illegal graffiti) by painting their names, initials or dates on it. If you are one of those, who want the so-called "art" restored, I have two very strong suggestions: First, MAKE SURE you have the owner's permission to paint that section of the wall. Mr. Herling has assured us that he has these signed permissions, so ask to see them before you find yourself facing vandalism charges. Second, NO ONE has permission to paint ANYTHING on the sidewalk. Just don't do it.
Herling took this to mean that Scott had been the one he'd caught defacing the mural over the weekend. He has since retracted that claim but says the culprit was one of Scott's housemates. Scott has not responded to an email or phone call seeking comment.
In any case, the man "went out and found the volunteers' paint and decided to go to town behind their home." The vandal "completely obliterated Saturn." Ditto for the girl holding the spinning ball. The invitation to passersby now warned them away: "DON'T PAINT ME."
Herling says he thought of making a citizen's arrest but decided against it. There was, after all, a standing invitation to paint, plus waiting paint and brushes Herling had left out.
What he did do was go downtown to search through Dallas County records for the plat to Scott's house. Attached to it was a dedication from 1967 ceding the wall to the city of Dallas, whose code department has green-lighted the project.
Scott, in the neighborhood discussion group, says a survey completed shortly before he bought his house in 2006 shows the wall as part of his property, plus an email from Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates' office affirming that wall maintenance is the homeowner's responsibility.
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"These two sources are not only irrefutably credible, but they are also at least roughly 40 years more recent than the developer's dedication of land when the plat was recorded," Scott writes. "Lots of things can happen over nearly half a century. I don't know how, when or why this change occurred, but clearly something happened. My guess, for all that's worth, is that the city didn't want the cost of maintaining it. Whatever happened, doesn't matter. We can only deal with what IS, not what used to be.
"And Mr. Herling, it takes an inconceivable degree of hubris and irony for you to accuse anyone of defacing property! Whether you believe that I own that section of the wall, or you believe, as you incorrectly assert, that the city does, YOU and your minions have been defacing it for weeks! Wow. Some people really have a twisted sense of reality."
Scott has at least one supporter in the neighborhood forum. Most of the rest seem to like the wall.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.