City councilors began work today on a zoning change that would allow art galleries to open in areas such as Newbury Street, where, technically, they are currently prohibited.
City Councilor Josh Zakim (Back Bay) said he was amazed to learn recently that ISD rejected a request by Pucker Gallery, 171 Newbury St., to move to 240 Newbury St. because of the prohibition.
The gallery must now go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, which could cost the gallery thousands of dollars and delay the move by months in order to schedule a hearing at which to try to convince board members why it would otherwise suffer a horrible hardship, he said.
Zakim and at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley says that's just nuts in a city that likes to think it has an international reputation for the arts.
The gallery has to move because its building was recently sold.
Other councilors agreed on their proposal for a public hearing to allow art galleries "of right" in commercial and industrial districts where they are now technically prohibited. Art galleries are allowed in these zones in Roxbury, Allston-Brighton, along Dorchester Avenue, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Mission Hill, the South End, Roslindale, the Fenway, and certain specific parts of the Back Bay and downtown - just not Newbury Street - according to their hearing request.
Their proposal also calls for making art galleries a "conditional" use in areas zoned for apartments and similar residential uses. Conditional uses require zoning-board hearings, but do not present as severe impediments to approval as forbidden uses.
At-large Councilor Michael Flaherty supported the basic idea, but said he is concerned the proposal not be a back door to allow art galleries into South Boston's Marine Industrial Park. Art and a working port terminal just wouldn't mix, he said, adding he wouldn't want to see anything jeopardize the 5,000 marine-related jobs he said the industrial park now supports.