The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board Thursday denied a request by Doug Sellers to rezone the Body First fitness center from a single family residential district to a C-2 commercial district. It did so by a 4-0 vote, citing concerns from abutting property owners over controls on future owners and improvements to the club.
Chad Bunger, city planner, said city officials advised Sellers to apply for the C-2 zoning with the restrictive covenant because it was less paperwork and less expensive than the other option, applying for a PUD. But in rejecting the C2 designation, planning board members suggested the more restrictive nature of the PUD designation might make it more palatable to area residents.
Those residents, who live along Hudson Avenue and Windsong Lane, agreed that Sellers had been a good commercial neighbor. But they also told the board they were concerned that the C-2 designation would allow for future growth of the building without giving the residents an opportunity to oppose that growth.
As part of his rezoning request, Sellers had attached a restrictive covenant that would have limited the club to adding a beauty salon, chiropractor/acupuncture, and fitness equipment store. He also agreed to stipulate that revenues from the additional services could not exceed profits from the club’s membership revenues. Those services are not permitted in the club’s current residential zoning.
Bunger said that while the covenant restricted the types of services offered, it did not restrict the physical expansion or allow residents to have a say so long as it did not violate the codes governing commercial district setbacks and screening requirements.
Currently the site at 3615 Claflin Rd. is tucked away from view by three large earthen berms and several large trees. Residents said nothing would prohibit Sellers or a future owner from removing the berms and building more buildings at the site with the commercial zoning.
The residents also voiced concern over the additional traffic that might be generated during peak traffic hours at Amanda Arnold Elementary School, which sits next to the club. Judd Annis, 1325 Hudson Ave., said when parents are dropping off or picking up children from the elementary school it is “a madhouse” of traffic. He said the addition of 50 people coming and going from the club would only add to the congestion.
George Lockheart, 1319 Windsong Lane, said he was also worried about “zoning creep” if the commercial district were allowed. He said the board denied a request of another property owner on Hudson Avenue to build a daycare center across the street from Amanda Arnold. He was worried that if the board allowed the club to be zoned as a commercial district, the property owner across the street would have a stronger argument to apply for rezoning.
Linda Morse, chair of the board, said a PUD would alleviate the concerns of the club’s neighbors about future development because that designation requires that any future changes be approved by the planning board.
As for the traffic concerns, Morse said the residents would have to take that up with the school district. She also commended Sellers for allowing parents to park along the drive to the club, something he was not required to do.
Morse noted that Sellers could take the rezoning request to the city commission, which could override the board’s denial. City commissioners would need to do so by a supermajority of 4-1 to approve the rezoning with the restrictive covenant or the commission could send it back to the board for reconsideration. After that, the commission would only need a simple majority to override the board’s decision.
The board approved a request by Manhattan Area Technical College to rezone property it owns from a single family residential district to a university district.
Bunger said the college used to be a part of USD 383, and the residential district allows for public schools to be zoned as residential. However, the college separated from the school district in 2004, and as a result, no longer falls within the strict definition of a residential zone within the comprehensive plan. The change to a university district gives the college more requirement for screened parking and setbacks from the streets, but more flexibility in expansion of the campus.
Only one resident spoke against the rezoning request, citing concerns about parking congestion along Dickens Avenue.
Robert Edleston, president and CEO of MATC, said the college discourages students from parking along the residential streets, but has no control over where students park off campus.
He also said that there was some confusion when he sent out letters to the abutting property owners advising them of the college’s proposal. He said he received a few phone calls asking when the demolition crews were going to be moving in because some of the residents thought the campus was expanding beyond its current borders.
Edleston said he sent out a second letter and held a meeting to assure residents the campus had no plans to expand beyond its current borders.
Morse was concerned with storm water runoff as the campus added buildings on the property it already owns. But Steve Zilkie, city planner, said current regulations require builders to compensate for the runoff on every half-acre developed.
The board approved the request on a 4-0 vote.