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Complying with city important

Wise Guys Pizza might have to take a “slice” out of the way it tries to attract customers to its 11th Avenue entrance. The city’s Zoning Hearing Board will make a determination when it considers a Wise Guys application for a variance on Aug. 14.

But for now, during this summer that has been fairly routine on the city’s governmental front, Wise Guys’ customer-attraction technique has been the one unusual, enduring issue that seems to have consumed an inordinate amount of officials’ attention.

In one sense, the situation is humorous — that a pizza shop could cause so much of what many people might perceive to be consternation. However, from another perspective, the Wise Guys situation is serious.

The city’s appearance in the future is at stake.

The city cannot allow one business to do something outside the parameters of a local ordinance; that could open a potential “floodgate” for others to try to do likewise, in various ways.

Eventually, depending on how out-of-control the situation were to become, the positive image that Altoona strives to project could be undermined.

Regarding Wise Guys, first there was the issue of whether a large mural that was in the process of being painted onto an outside wall of its building would be allowed to be completed, because of its size. The mural depicts a scene from the movie “Scarface.”

A poll of City Council members a few weeks ago judged the mural to be “art,” a decision that exempted the shop’s owner, Bob Goss, from restrictions in the Altoona zoning ordinance dealing with the size of business signs.

But then Goss unveiled an added “ingredient” to try to bring pizza lovers to the shop — an ingredient that hasn’t been welcomed by local officials.

Goss had a large arrow added to the mural wall pointing to the business’ entrance and, above the arrow, large letters spelling out the word “pizza.”

City officials now contend that the arrow and word “pizza” make the wall no longer art but, instead, a business sign that far exceeds the size of business signs permitted under the zoning ordinance.

It is for that reason Goss now is being required to seek a variance that would allow him to keep the mural on the building — at least in its current dimensions.

Whether removing the arrow and word “pizza” from the mural wall will be satisfactory to the city, to allow the mural to be considered art once again, is a point that presumably will be decided by way of the Aug. 14 variance hearing.

Meanwhile, Goss contends that he needs the sign on the side of the building facing 12th Avenue because the front of the building is visible to motorists only in their rearview mirrors, as they converge onto Chestnut Avenue from 12th and 13th avenues.

It will benefit the city’s tax coffers if the Aug. 14 hearing isn’t detrimental to Goss’ pizza profits, but at the same time, business’ sign dimensions should comply with zoning rules.

A “slice” of good judgment by everyone involved is needed to finally put the mural issue to rest.

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