Life Time Fitness, a high-end fitness center proposed for the Fort Washington Office Park, got almost all it was looking for from the Zoning Hearing Board Monday night, with enough leeway on the remainder to move forward.
The Minnesota-based company, which has 116 locations in the United States and Canada, plans to build a 113,000-square-foot fitness center, 53,000-square-foot outdoor pool with bistro and 585 parking spaces on the 14.5-acre corner of Commerce and Delaware drives.
Aaron Koehler, director of development for Life Time, described the brick, stone and glass facility as “a country club without a golf course” with “resort and spa-type amenities.” In addition to the fitness equipment and athletic activities offered, there will be a lap pool and leisure pool inside as well and a Kids Academy, with programming for children, a café, spa, salon and lounge areas.
The two-story building at 375 Commerce Drive, with entrances on both Commerce and Delaware, would be “an attractive landmark” seen from the Turnpike interchange and “a major amenity to neighboring offices,” Koehler said.
Life Time was seeking variances for building height; having the building set back farther than the required “build-to line”; parking on the side of the building; nine business signs rather than the maximum two, 200-square-foot signs permitted, comprising a total of 492 square feet; to permit filling, grading and other work within the floodplain buffer; construction within the floodplain; and driveways and parking lots within the floodplain to be constructed, in part, of impervious rather than pervious paving materials.
Jason Korczak of Bohler Engineering explained the reasons for the variances and noted that under a revised flood plain map by URS Corp. — expected to be adopted by FEMA — that takes into account the flood retarding structures the township built, very little of the site would remain in the flood plain. Oversized basins and other measures would provide additional storage of stormwater on the site as well as slightly improve surrounding properties, he said.
On a motion by zoning board Chair Leonard Karp, the board voted 5-0 to permit all the variances, except for the signs. The motion approved allows for a maximum of six signs that in total may not exceed the 400-square-foot maximum.
Karp asked at the outset why Life Time was not seeking to build under the township’s Transfer of Development Rights ordinance, which would permit the majority of the variances being sought.
Marc Jonas, the attorney for Life Time Fitness, said the ordinance deals with sending and receiving sites and the land is question is a sending site, and “there would be no [receiving] site suitable to meet the needs of the applicants in the office park.”
A conditional use hearing to permit paving and utility work within the flood plain was held Aug. 11, and a decision from the board of commissioners is expected Sept. 8.
If the applicant is granted the conditional use, the plan will enter the land development stage.
Koehler said afterward the company hoped to start construction in late spring or summer of 2016 with completion in 2017.