Twyla Johnson outside her pink painted store at Young and Princess

Pink building saga not over yet

The saga of the pink building took another twist over the weekend when the downtown storefront was repainted a dark green.

The saga of the pink building took another twist over the weekend when the downtown storefront was repainted a dark green.

But it’s still not quite over yet.

The owner of the vintage clothing shop told The Progress she was disappointed by what she called “pea soup” green her landlord went with to cover the pink. He was in a rush in order to meet the deadline city officials had imposed.

“I had to comply with the bylaw. I had no choice,” said Twyla Johnson, owner of Corner Hut Fashions.

A minor media furore erupted last week when it came to light the pink would have to go because the store owners had failed to choose an approved colour — even after viewing the palette of colour choices.

Johnson went ahead and painted last month with a bright purple-pink or fuchsia shade, to jazz up her storefront.

City officials reacted quickly — she had to either repaint or pay the costs.

“I couldn’t afford the fines which could be as much as $200 a day,” Johnson said. “I don’t even make that much.”

The problem was that the particularly bright shade did not conform to the palette of approved colours. The palette forms part of the design guidelines adopted under the Official Community Plan, specifically to unify the look of the historic downtown core. The focus is on muted and neutral tones such as terra cotta reds, mossy greens, ochre, powdery blue, as well as creams, tans, grays and many more.

The business group and the city have been taking non-stop flack over the pink building since the matter erupted. Somehow the great pink debate crystallized old frustrations and anger about the city and the BIA — which may or may not have any basis in fact.

“The BIA isn’t interested in ‘taking it to the little guy’, and neither is the City of Chilliwack for that matter,” said BIA executive director Alvin Bartel, in a press release.

“On the contrary, we are only interested in helping the downtown merchants succeed in their endeavours.”

Notification to Johnson by the city about the non-sanctioned colour was the upshot of a complaint. CTV News reported the complaint came from the BIA itself but the assertion was not attributed.

“Everyone understands laws and bylaws,” said Johnson. “I just felt they were enforcing a bylaw that they might just want to reconsider.”

In fact a “fresh look” at the colour palette guidelines could be on its way this fall, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

The BIA spokesman agreed.

“After all, trends do change over time and some adjustment to the colour palette might be warranted,” Bartel admitted.

The mayor actually wore a bright pink jacket during a TV interview last week, in part to show that she has nothing against the bright colour personally.

“But as city officials we are not allowed to apply bylaws with any partiality. But we’ve been vilified for this one,” Gaetz said.

Part of it was the apparent David-and-Goliath aspects, of the city coming down on the “little guy,” which was certainly not the case, she said.

Many local residents have been urging city and BIA officials to give in, to bend the rules, and allow the store to stay pink.

“I was totally blown away by how many people have come through the doors to say how dissatisfied and angry they were about this,” Johnson said.

She had to hire extra staff to deal with the non-stop stream of people. Four sets of supporters showed up within 20 minutes during one afternoon.

“I am furious,” said resident Doreen Morrey. “Someone who tries to brighten up the downtown like this shouldn’t be put down or chastised for it. We should picket with pink signs.”

For resident Brenda Gelean, the bright pink was precisely what the downtown needed. She remembers seeing it for the first time when she walked up Young Road, and giving Johnson the thumbs-up about it.

“Bright colours make us happy,” she said. “That’s a proven fact.”

But a lot of half-truths have been circulated since the pink building story went viral, Bartel said.

“Some of the information that has been reported has been accurate and some perhaps needs further clarification,” he said.

“Like all of our neighbours up and down the valley, Chilliwack has a set of guidelines that dictate form and character for the downtown area, including colour.As part of those guidelines, a colour palette was developed featuring a “wide range of choices” for use on building facades.

“Some might say that these colours are ‘too dull’ or ‘drab’, but for the time being it’s what’s on the books.

“Many businesses over the years have abided by the rules and used these colour guidelines very successfully in their renovations and new construction.”

But the saga of the downtown colour debate is not completely over yet.

The dark green will stay in place until all parties can sit down, review the existing colour palette again, and find another shade more acceptable to Johnson than the drab green, said Gaetz.

Paint costs will be covered by the BIA, and a Good Samaritan has generously offered to paint the storefront — again — in an attempt to truly satisfy everyone.

“The message we want to get out is that we’re just about to unveil a new plan for the downtown,” said Gaetz.

They’ll discussing it soon with merchants and residents.

“We have a vision, a plan and a dream for the downtown, and our downtown task force members will be coming forth with some bold recommendations. So of course we can look at the palette at that time as well.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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