How the mayor's doughnut run helped save this towering dog doodle

Mayor Jim Watson was on a doughnut run when a chance meeting with a CBC reporter led him to help save a work of art from being painted over.

Jim Watson intervened to preserve 2-storey mural of Sara May's pet bulldog

Mayor Jim Watson helped save this mural of Imelda, the Hintonburg homeowner's French bulldog. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Mayor Jim Watson was on a doughnut run Friday when a chance meeting with a CBC reporter led him to help save a work of public art from being painted over.

"I was on my way to Suzy Q Doughnuts, which I spend too much time at, stopped at the stop sign and I saw Stu Mills from CBC," Watson recounted to council on Wednesday.

Mills asked the mayor what he thought of a two-storey mural of a dog on the side of a building on Stirling Avenue in Hintonburg.

"I said it was nice," Watson recalled.

But the mural is technically against city rules, and after someone complained, the city's bylaw department had ordered it covered up.

It so happened that property owner Sara May, who had commissioned the artwork as a unique way to cover over graffiti left on the building, was also standing outside when the mayor happened by. The two chatted, and Watson resolved to help local Coun. Jeff Leiper save the mural.

Mayor Jim Watson and councillors approved an exemption to a bylaw prohibiting murals on private property. They also asked city staff to review the bylaw process for murals more generally. 0:34

"What we've tried to do is use art as a selling point of our city, to brighten it up," Watson told his fellow council members.​ "I think this a reasonable request:"

They agreed. On Wednesday, council unanimously approved an exemption to the permanent signs bylaw that usually forbids this sort of mural on private property. The bylaw is really meant to restrict advertising, not works of art, according to the city's general manager of planning, Steve Willis.

In its last act before the Oct. 22 election, council also ordered staff to review the bylaw process governing murals, and to make it "as easy as possible for homeowners while still respecting the character of the neighbourhood."