Zoning Change Advocated to Ease Public Art Installations

Jan 11, 2022 | Arts, Government | 1 comment

“Rock, Paper, Scissors,” a sculpture by artist Kevin Box, required several approvals and a Zoning Board of Appeals variance before it could be installed in front of the Westport Library last November. An amendment to make it easier for artworks to be placed on town properties is being considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission. / Photo by Gretchen Webster

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A zoning amendment that would make it easier to install artwork on town-owned property is on the agenda for Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. 

Securing the necessary permits to place a sculpture on town property currently can prove arduous, taking many months, according to Nancy Diamond, chairwoman of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

“We would like to bring more art to Westport. But we are extremely limited by where we can place art,” she said.

Zoning regulations now include art work within the overall coverage limitations on a property, and “are hoops we have to jump through with Planning and Zoning.”

Diamond was speaking to the Zoning Regulation Revision Subcommittee of the Planning and Zoning Commission last week as it reviewed a change that would exclude artworks from the coverage limits for public property.

Including artwork in coverage calculations, as well as a process requiring approval from numerous town boards, means that sometimes donated art does not get the opportunity to be displayed for all to enjoy, she said.

 The sculpture, “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” by artist Kevin Box, which is the Arts Advisory Committee’s most recent installation, took months of tedious work and a Zoning Board of Appeals variance, to finally install it on the grounds of the Westport Library, Diamond said. 

The sculpture, donated by residents Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, was dedicated in November. 

“We went through every commission in town to put in a 3-foot sculpture,” Diamond said. 

Planning and Zoning Director Mary Young called the proposed arts coverage amendment “a band-aid solution” and suggested that in the long term it might be better to consider a special arts zone for the placement of art in town. 

The P&Z staff may work on creating such a proposed zone in the future, she said after the meeting.

The Arts Advisory Committee also discussed the zoning amendment briefly at its meeting Tuesday. 

“If public art is not considered a structure, we would not have to go to ZBA or P&Z to get permission to place a structure,” Diamond told the group. It then would not be included in coverage calculations.

But even if artworks are no longer considered in property coverage calculations, they could still be restricted by other regulations, such as locating it within a conservation area, said Kathie Bennewitz, curator of the Westport Public Arts Collection. Those regulations would still have to be followed, she said.

The full P&Z is scheduled to consider the zoning regulation change at its work session set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13.

1 Comment

  1. Mark Yurkiw

    It would be a real cultural boon to the town to have more art outdoor and indoor on public …& private property
    The NYC idea of $1% for the arts or the Ct arts alliance proposal https://ctartsalliance.org/1-for-the-arts/ would be half the battle.
    A variation on this theme would also be to allocate 1% of any property footprint for art.
    The important part would be a quick and specific process for permission to temporarily install the art.
    This could be a simple application review process to meet safety & legal standards.
    First a temporary one year permit with a review of any issues at the end of the first year for then another status i.e. permeant or multiyear.

    Reply

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