2006-09-01 / Community

Zoning amendment allows gymnastics facility to stay at current location

By Kyle Jorrey kjorrey@theacorn.com

Thanks to a recent City Council amendment to Simi Valley's zoning laws, a group of local gymnasts won't have to roll up their mats and summersault elsewhere.

The owner of Cali Dreams Gymnastics, a training facility operating out of a 19,000-squarefoot industrial building on Agate Court since June 2004, earned the right to keep her lease at that location after the council voted 5-0 Monday night to allow such facilities in areas zoned light industrial and general industrial upon the approval of a conditional use permit.

City planner Peter Lyons said his office took up the case after code enforcement discovered the facility, which serves gymnasts as young as 2 and as old as 18, was not in compliance with the city's current zoning laws.

"We're amending the code to define more precisely gymnastics facilities," Lyons explained. "We're putting it with similar uses that are allowed in industrial zones such as batting cages, tennis courts and skating rinks."

Cali Dreams is one of two gymnastic training facilities located in Simi Valley. The other, Imagymnation Gymnastics Center, is not operated inside an industrial building.

Gymnastics facilities choose industrial buildings for their high ceilings and large, open spaces, Lyons explained.

During the first reading of the ordinance, some council members wondered aloud whether or not the amendment would affect the city's necessary supply of industrial space, keeping out manufacturers that can employ hundreds for a training facility that may employ around 20.

Lyons and the city staff assured the council that such a scenario was not only highly unlikely, but also preventable through the use of approval/disapproval powers.

"The conditional use permit process . . . allows us to say 'no' at times when the situation isn't right," Lyons said.

Lyons said among reasons to reject an application for a permit would be if the facility was found to be undermining the city's general plan-which states that Simi must have a set amount of job-producing, industrial land uses-or if it was in an unsafe location, such as in an area where semi trucks and heavy equipment are constantly present.

He also said that if an industrial company needed the building space, the basic laws of economics would take over.

"A gymnastics facility could not pay the rent that an industrial user could pay, and I feel as if that would force gymnastic facilities to go elsewhere," Lyons said. "Plus, we really don't feel the community can handle more than two or three gymnastics facilities. We're just not that large to have any more."

Dorina Timbol, the energetic owner of Cali Dreams and a Simi

Valley resident for 13 years, was visibly pleased after getting the council's initial approval.

"Now that we've done whatever we need to do with the city to be in compliance, we can really move on to the next level," said Timbol, who took over full control of the business in 2005 and now has 15 employees and more than 200 aspiring young gymnasts, some of whom are special needs students.

"Now we feel like there's nothing that can stop us," she added.

To be in full compliance, Timbol is looking at building a new handicapped-accessible ramp and outdoor bicycle racks. The facility already meets parking space requirements and has an enclosed trash compartment.

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