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ZAP supports zoning change that would allow school to reopen

Friday, September 9, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

A visual arts school that shut down after running afoul of zoning laws received support Tuesday from the Zoning and Platting Commission to open back up. 

Colette Barcilon, president of Gemini School of Visual Arts, explained that the Texas Workforce Commission shut the school down because it did not have a fire safety certificate. The Austin Fire Department would not grant the certificate because the school isn’t technically allowed to operate under the current Interim Single-Family-Standard Lot (I-SF-2) zoning.

To remedy the situation, Barcilon seeks General Office (GO) zoning, which would only apply to the 3,000-square-foot office suite where the school operates. In order to reopen the school on time, the rezoning needs to be approved by the beginning of October.

“We have students who are in the middle of their program, and it breaks our heart that they are not able to proceed and continue with their education,” Barcilon said. 

The four-year career training school, located at 12325 Hymeadow Drive, has been operating in Texas since 2003. Most students, she said, end up working in the video game industry.

One neighbor, Joseph Crawford, who lives just behind the office complex, opposed the rezoning. While Crawford said he welcomes the school remaining in the neighborhood, he wouldn’t want some other use, such as a group home, hospital or rehab center, to take its place. 

Barcilon said none of those uses are feasible in the office space. “There is no way that anybody would entertain the idea of having a restaurant, a hospital or anything similar in that tiny space,” she said. 

Crawford responded, “This would be an outlier as a GO zoning on this side of the block, so it would move the goal posts for future zoning designations.”

ZAP commissioners, siding with the school, voted unanimously to recommend GO zoning. The commission also recommended adding a conditional overlay prohibiting certain uses in response to Crawford’s concerns. 

City Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning Sept. 29.

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