The City Planning Commission approved the development plan for Peak Fitness Center to open its doors but on the condition the applicant can find long-term parking leases.
Owner Tara Nultemeier came before the Planning Commission on Thursday night asking to convert a building at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 13th Street from retail space to a health club, a conditional-use under the commercial Old Town zone district.
The applicant also requested a variance from the 15 parking spaces she would be required to provide under the code.
The Planning Commission looked at ways to reduce the number of parking spaces the fitness center would be required to provide to 10 but could not find any basis under the code to do so.
The applicant can take the issue to the City Council, which grants the final approval.
Nultemeier also could find long-term parking leases on nearby properties to meet the requirement.
Close to 30 people were in the audience Thursday, and many of them spoke in support of dropping the parking requirement. Gym members said Peak Fitness is much smaller than the health club envisioned in the code and doesn't draw more than 10 people at a time.
Under the code, one parking space is required for every 100 square feet of net floor space. Peak Fitness Center's net floor area is 15,000 square feet, requiring 15 on-site spaces.
The applicant proposed two on-site spaces in front of the building and another three spaces were credited for a proposed bike rack. And in a letter to the city May 24, Nultemeier indicated that five additional parking spaces could be provided offsite on the Lockhart property, about 160 feet away.
City Brian Bavosi said the city has yet to see a signed agreement for those parking spaces.
If the 10 spaces are not provided, the city requires a fee in lieu of them. At $10,000 a space, Nultemeier would have to pay $100,000.
Bavosi said the applicant had indicated they would ask the City Council to waive that fee.
Some Planning Commission members said that the parking requirement probably was too high for a health club as small as Nultemeier's, and some suggested looking at reducing the parking requirements along Lincoln Avenue.
Planning Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said he would be willing to allow the applicant to find long-term lease agreements within a block and a half of the business. The code calls for the long-term lease agreement to be within 600 square feet of the business.
Commissioners balked at waiving the fee in lieu of parking spaces, noting the city has required many other businesses to pay it.
"The only solution is to get long-term agreements and to get them as quickly as possible," Planning Commissioner Randall Hannaway said.
Planning Commissioner Scott Myller cast the lone no vote, stating the parking requirement was way too high and suggesting all parking requirements be taken away from Lincoln Avenue.
"That is where we need to go. ... I am willing to make a motion on that right now," he said.