Visitors who come to Greendale for the first time often compare the village to a scene from a Normal Rockwell painting — a peaceful community with quaint shops, modest homes, and a white, wooden gazebo in the middle of downtown.
But don't expect to see a sculpture of the famous American artist erected in the Village Center any time soon, at least not on Village property.
That's because the Greendale Planning Commission Wednesday rejected an application from Grandhaven LLC. to erect a Norman Rockwell sculpture on village property.
A number of commissioners questioned the placement and the historical significance of Norman Rockwell in Greendale.
"Norman Rockwell wasn’t born here, he didn’t live here, and he didn’t paint a painting of Greendale."
The sculpture of the 20th Century painter would have been placed on village property near the intersection of Northway and Broad Street. Paid entirely by Grandhaven, the sculpture would have been a replica of the one that can be found inside the Greendale Visitor Center.
Grandhaven is the landlord of the Village Center shops and is owned by Roy Reiman. Reiman is the founder of Reiman Publications and has been credited many times for restoring the vitality of the Village Center 15 years ago.
Village President John Hermes says while he appreciates Grandhaven’s gesture and supports the statue, he does not want it on village property.
“I don’t support it on village right-of-way,” Hermes. “The main reason is the historical significance of Norman Rockwell to this community. I would say that if we were going erect a statue, it should be of Franklin D. Roosevelt or Eleanor Roosevelt, or even Roy Reiman himself, who has played a significant role. No one can argue with that...Norman Rockwell wasn’t born here, he didn’t live here, and he didn’t paint a painting of Greendale.”
Trustee Sally Chadwick said she was in favor of it because she saw it as art.
Others were concerned that its placement on an already visually busy intersection could serve as an additional distraction for drivers.
“I’m uncomfortable with it,” said Commissioner Bernard Schroedl. “I don’t think we need anymore distractions in the village. This particular corner is a distraction. The accident here to two years… we were there. We just don’t need something down there.”
Schroedl was referring to 5-year-old Ava Zimmerman who was hit and killed by car in 2010.
Village Manager Todd Michaels and Director of Inspection Services Scott Satula said it’s not truly a hazard to traffic, but it can be a distraction people might look at, similar to a sign.
Commissioners suggested moving the location to a Grandhaven property where it would not be a distraction for drivers.
Grandhaven Manager Anne Marie Pierce said the idea came forth when people coming to the Greendale Visitors Center asked why the statue wasn’t outside on Broad Street.
Other commissioners said people might not even know who is Norman Rockwell.
“Visitors tend to know it’s Norman Rockwell because we are marketing in all the information sent out that we are like a Norman Rockwell town,” Pierce said.
Pierce also said the statue would have been an added element of interest. Moving it to another location would not have the same “wow impact” for visitors coming into the Village Center.
“The benefactor of the statue, the person paying for it, loves Norman Rockwell,” Pierce said. “So it would be a gift to the village and it would have also been something he enjoys. It’s like I said, it’s already inside and we were just trying to bring it outside so people could enjoy it.”
The Planning Commission voted 6-1 against the sculpture in that particular location, with Chadwick voting in favor.
Grandhaven could come back with a new location for the sculpture.
Even though the comission rejected the application in its current placement Michaels said in an email, "The application will be further discussed at the July 5th Village Board meeting, at which time the Village Board will consider the request and take final action."