A Monkland Avenue business owner is fighting to get a mural spray-painted onto the side of her building — but borough council says it looks too much like the graffiti it’s meant to ward off.

The Côte-des-NeigesNotre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council struck down Jean Chapman’s request to hire someone to spray-paint a black-and-white mural on her building at the corner of Monkland and Melrose.

The proposed graffiti is an abstract image of horses galloping away from what appears to be a tag. Chapman says she likes graffiti and doesn’t have a problem with the imagery.

But the borough does. Only the half of the mural containing the horses was approved by council, rejecting the other half.

Chapman says she’s paid hundreds of dollars to clean up and prevent tagging on her building. The borough issues fines to building owners who don’t act to remove unwanted graffiti.

Jean Chapman

Jean Chapman owns a building on Monkland Avenue in NDG. Borough council denied her request for a mural, citing it looked too much like a tag. (CBC)

Murals commissioned from artists and groups are a popular method of deterring tagging, since many people who do graffiti don’t make a habit of painting over other people’s work.

Daybreak Montreal spoke to the four mayoral candidates running in the borough. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Russell Copeman, Marcel Côté's Coalition Montreal

  • He says he is not in a position to judge whether the mural should be allowed but agrees that the borough has the obligation to approve what kind of murals go up in NDG.
  • He says he hasn't given the graffiti bylaw much thought but says he believes private and public institutions need to remove graffiti and that everyone bears a responsibility.

Kevin Copps, Équipe Coderre

  • He says this is graffiti, not art, and he would not approve it.
  • However, he says he would do away with the current graffiti bylaw. He says it's unfair for business owners whose property is vandalized to be victimized twice by having to pay a fine.

Andrew Ross, Groupe Mélanie Joly

  • He says he believes the borough should not be in the business of being art critics. He admits that graffiti is a problem in NDG and murals are a solution to the problem, so he would permit the mural.
  • That said, he believes in the current bylaw that deals with graffiti removal. He says everyone has a role to play in graffiti removal and that, while the law may be a little heavy-handed, businesses play a key part in the community.

Michael Simkin, Projet Montreal

  • He would allow the mural, despite it not being one of the nicest he's seen. He says the city shouldn't interfere in what building owners put on their walls. Art is art.
  • However, he thinks murals aren’t an effective long-term solution to the graffiti problem. He added he would remove the bylaw asking owners to pay fines if they don't remove the graffiti. Instead he says Projet Montreal would focus and invest in preventive measures to stop graffiti, such as creating "living" walls of plants and flowers.

For the record, Chapman says she like Andrew Ross’s response best.

Visit CBC Montreal's municipal elections page for more coverage of election issues.