September 26, 2008

Gym to Stay Open 24 Hours



Marana officials will review whether a restriction on hours for businesses along a three-mile stretch of North Silverbell Road in Continental Ranch is still necessary following the town council's approval to let a gym be open 24 hours a day.

"I think it's time to take a look at it," Councilman Russell Clanagan said of rules associated with the Silverbell Road Commercial Overlay District. "Maybe the conditions that were present when it was originally adopted are no longer valid."

The Marana Town Council created the overlay district - which covers both sides of Silverbell from North Cortaro to West Twin Peaks roads - in 2003 after residents in neighborhoods near Silverbell expressed concern that vacant commercial land along the road could end up becoming home to businesses that didn't fit well in the area, planning director Kevin Kish said.

Businesses prohibited within the district include auto body shops, bowling alleys, theaters and establishments that provide "adult entertainment uses," as defined in Title 24 of the Marana Land Development Code.

The code also prevents businesses from being open between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., though conditional use permits can be issued to allow for extended hours.

No business had ever been granted such a permit until Sept. 3, when the council voted 6-0 to approve a permit that allows Minneapolis-based gym chain Snap Fitness to have a franchise at 8567 N. Silverbell Road be open 24 hours a day.

"I think that it's time for something like this in our community," said councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler, who has lived in Continental Ranch for 19 years.

The only other business to seek a conditional use permit within the overlay district, Kish said, was fellow 24-hour gym entity Anytime Fitness, at 8235 N. Silverbell Road. Anytime applied in 2006 but withdrew its request after the town's planning and zoning commission recommended the council not approve the permit, Kish said.

The zoning commission - which can only make recommendations to the council - voted 6-0 in July against Snap's permit request, citing safety and security concerns. But town staff recommended approval under the condition that Snap's operators submit a plan to the town detailing the gym's security measures.

Ty Smith, a partner in Snap's Continental Ranch location and the franchises's sales manager, told the council that none of the company's 970 24-hour facilities throughout the country have had security issues between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., or during other parts of the day

Smith said being able to be open 24 hours a day will allow Snap to compete with what he called "big-box fitness centers" such as L.A. Fitness and Bally's and will prevent Continental Ranch residents from having to drive long distances to work out.

"Convenience is a big selling point for us," said Smith, who noted about 20 percent of calls he's fielded from prospective clients have expressed an interest in being able to work out in the middle of the night.

In approving Snap's permit, the council told a representative of the Anytime Fitness branch in Continental Ranch that Anytime would also be granted 24-hour operation if it applied for one.

After Snap's request was approved, Clanagan, the Marana councilman, directed town staff to review the overlay district's guidelines.

Though he anticipates the overlay district will remain in place for Silverbell, Kish said he wouldn't be surprised if the review leads to some modifications.

"The times have changed," Kish said. "The intent was good at the time."

* Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at 434-4079 or [email protected]

Originally published by BRIAN J. PEDERSEN, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.

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