ROCKINGHAM, Vt. (AP) – A “Visit Bellows Falls” mural painted last fall on the side of barn violates Vermont’s no billboards law, according to state officials.

“It’s beautiful, but it’s illegal,” said John Kessler, a staff attorney for the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The $4,000 mural, which was put up at a barn at Leslie’s Restaurant in Rockingham, is too big to qualify as a welcome sign, according to Kessler, who is also chairman of the Vermont Travel Information Council.

Since it directs motorists to a place, it’s technically a sign, according to Kessler, who said that if its writing were removed, it wouldn’t be subject to the state’s sign law.

But that would defeat the purpose of the mural, which is meant to direct motorists and others to downtown Bellows Falls.

The Travel Information Council has the authority to levy a $100-a-day fine, but for now, no enforcement action is being taken against the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance over the mural, which was painted by sign artist Frank Hawkins.

“I think they understood the ramifications of what they did and the council thought it best to give them a couple of months,” said John Zicconi, a spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “They are not the first group that wanted to keep a sign up. It is a little different than a regular sign on a stick, that’s a little easier to remove than a side of a barn, but we’ll have to see what happens.”

AP-ES-04-09-08 1046EDT

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