A federal judge has denied a request for a temporary restraining order to stop demolition at the Trail East site and ordered the mural’s artists and the Town of Normal to return to court for settlement talks.
Thirteen artists who worked on the mural sued the town and Trail East developer Bush Construction in April, claiming federal copyright law protects their work from being damaged or destroyed without their consent. The town and Bush want to knock down three buildings on Beaufort Street—including the mural’s home—to make room for the $30 million Trail East development. The town says the mural will be moved—not destroyed—although it’s unclear where it will go.
The artists then sought a restraining order to stop Trail East demolition from starting. Judge Joe Billy McDade on Tuesday denied that request, saying the town has already promised to give seven days’ notice before demolition begins. Demolition is tentatively scheduled to begin in July.
McDade said his ruling is “purely procedural and does not express any view on the merits of the case.” The 13 artists who’ve sued the town and Bush can still seek a preliminary injunction later, he said.
McDade also ordered the artists, town, and Bush to appear before Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley for a settlement conference June 19. That’s not open to the public.
The artists and the town have tried to reach a settlement for several months. But “efforts to reach a resolution of this matter appear to be at a standstill as of June 4,” the artists’ attorney, Bill McGrath, told McDade on June 7.
The legal dispute over the mural initially focused on whether it would be saved when Trail East is built; it’s now shifted to where the mural will be moved, and who will pay the $100,000 to do it.
The mural was organized and painted in 2011 in part by Natalie Wetzel, who was renting town-owned 104 E. Beaufort Street for her shop, The Pod. Town officials have said they may sue the former owners of the Pod to make them pay for the mural’s relocation.
McGrath said they want assurances it won’t be put in storage, hidden from public view.
“The court continues to believe a just and mutually satisfactory resolution to this case may be reached without the need for litigation,” McDade wrote Tuesday.
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