Boston’s Gaiety Theatre: Important Hearing Today
BOSTON, MA — The following press release was sent by the Gaiety Theatre Friends:
“The Boston Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) will hold a hearing on appeals challenging the issuance of a demolition permit for Boston’s historic Gaiety Theatre.
Two Boston City Councilors, Felix Arroyo and Chuck Turner, and the Asian American Resource Workshop are the appellants.
The hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 29, at noon, in Boston City Hall Room 801.
The public and press are invited to witness and/or participate in this hearing. Please plan to come and demonstrate your support. While spoken testimony will be limited, everyone who attends will learn about the issues and receive photos of the theatre. All interested parties should submit written comments to the ZBA, at the hearing or in advance by fax 617-635-2918.
Possible outcomes include reversing the demolition permit, or mandating a replacement or substantial renovation to another existing theatre.
Members of the Appellants Groups will meet with the Press after the hearing.
More information about The Gaiety:
Lee Eiseman, 617-241-7848 or Shirley Kressel, 617-421-0835
SUMMARY OF LEGAL ISSSUES
Boston Zoning Board of Appeal regarding appeals to reverse the Inspectional Services Department demolition permit # 1965 issued for the Gaiety Theatre, 659-665 Washington Street, Ward 3, BZC # 25978 & 25989 (3/29/05).
ISD should not have issued the demolition permit because the Zoning Board of Appeal has not made the findings required in Boston Zoning Code Article 38-21.2. Article 38-21.2 prohibits Change of Use or Occupancy of any theatre in the Midtown Cultural District without specific ZBA findings that the change will not Â³unduly diminish the historic character of the Midtown Cultural District as a cultural, entertainment, and theatrical showcase. The ZBA has not yet reviewed this issue nor made these findings. Nor has any court ruled on any of the issues here presented, although Massachusetts Land Court ruled that certain appellants lacked standing to sue in that venue to prevent demolition.
The developer acknowledges that the project is subject to Article 38-21.2 but seeks to avoid the Article’s theatre protection provisions by asserting that the Gaiety is not legally a theatre. However, this is refuted by ISD’s own records, including the demolition permit itself, which classify the Gaiety as a theatre. History and common sense also contradict this claim.
When ISD issued the demolition permit, it reportedly assumed that the project’s designation as a Planned Development Area overrides all zoning, including Article 38-21.2. However, Article 80C-9 of the Zoning Code, which allows the creation of PDAs, states: Nothing in this Article shall be construed to limit the power of the Board of Appeal to grant Zoning Relief for Proposed Projects in Planned Development Areas…
If ISD issued the demolition permit in violation of the Boston Zoning Code, the ZBA must reverse it. If the ZBA subsequently decides to grant a Change of Use or Occupancy after considering evidence regarding the criteria set forth in Article 38-21.2, the code requires that the developer build a replacement theater or rehabilitate an existing theater.
An alternative development proposal preserving the Theatre would provide more construction jobs, more permanent jobs, and more economic development (related businesses, jobs and customers) than the current proposal, and would bring residents and tourists to the area to make a vibrant 24-hour neighborhood. The revitalized Gaiety Theatre could become an economic engine that is part of the city’s creative economy.