GALVESTON

Artist Boat this week cleared the first hurdle in gaining permission to stay in its headquarters when the planning commission recommended a zoning overlay that would allow the conservation organization to operate in a residential neighborhood.

Neighbors began to complain about on-site kayak storage after the nonprofit leased and moved onto the site, in the 2600 block of Avenue O, in 2014, according to city reports.

The city sent the organization a letter in April 2015 informing it that storing kayaks was not allowed under a specific-use permit issued to a previous tenant at the property in 2002, according to city reports. Artist Boat had inherited the permit when it moved into the property .

Neighbors objected to the kayak storage Tuesday during the planning commission meeting.

“We are extremely concerned in our neighborhood because we are rated residential,” Carol Cowan said. “We can see the kayaks from our houses because we have two-story houses.”

Residents also worried about increased street parking because of Artist Boat’s activities.

“Every day, there are cars, at least three, normally four cars parked on my side of the street,” Don Bell said.

The Artist Boat building has an on-site parking pad for 10 cars and a 6-foot-tall fence and bamboo to screen the kayaks, according to city reports.

Because of the nature of the nonprofit, activities are concentrated away from the office location, Executive Director Karla Klay said.

“We’re quiet,” Klay said. “We’re polite. We pick up trash. We’re a good neighbor. We’re a good community asset.”

Founded in 2003, the nonprofit works to protect the Gulf Coast through art awareness programs, conservation projects and educational outreach.

“We have to have a home,” Klay said. “We have work to do that’s very important for the environment, for youth, for our planet.”

Klay doesn’t know another suitable location the nonprofit could move to, she said.

For some residents, the issue lies with allowing a non-residential use into the neighborhood.

“The whole point here is the zoning of the property,” Janie Marshall said.

Before Artist Boat began operating at the site, a school occupied the property, according to city records. The school received the current permit in 2002 to operate on the site. The permit stayed with the property when purchased by the current owner, according to the city.

Before the school, the site housed a church, according to city records.

The Galveston City Council still must approve the zoning overlay before the decision is final. A city council agenda posted on Thursday afternoon indicates the council will vote on whether to approve the planned unit development at the council meeting on Oct. 25.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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