Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Carthage rezoning could bring personal training center to business district

Cincinnati City Council has approved a zoning change that could bring a personal training center to the Masonic Lodge building at 6819 Vine Street in Carthage.

The rezoning of the building and two adjacent non-conforming parcels from SF-2 Single-Family to CN-M Commercial Neighborhood-Mixed District would allow the Norwood Winton Carthage Lodge 576 to sell the building to Fighter Inspired Training for Every Body, LLC (FITEB) for a martial arts, nutrition education, and self-defense facility.

Mark McAndrew of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, which is representing FITEB, said in a communication to council that the rezoning would facilitate the sale of the property.

A deal needs to be finalized between the parties by next month, McAndrew said.

Council received a letter of support from Carthage Civic League president Robert Hartlaub Jr., as well as a petition signed by fifteen neighborhood property owners.

City planning staff agreed that the CN-M district was more compatible with the land uses along the major arterial, and the City Planning Commission agreed, approving of the zoning change on June 5.

One man's opposition

Bill Anderson, owner of the neighboring multi-family building at 6815 Vine Street, sent a letter to council to let them know that he wasn't happy with the proposed zoning change.

According to him, the four-story building is obsolete because it lacks a proper elevator and contains only four men's restrooms – without shower facilities.

"Already the Lodge does not have the requisite elevator to bring it up to current code – there is a stairwell lift chair that satisfied the Grandfather Clause," Anderson said. "And I think they would have some restrictions on the number of people who could occupy the building as a gym/workout facility given this restroom/shower limitation."

Anderson suggested that the building could be used as a replacement for the small, outdated Carthage Recreation Center, and wondered what the Masons have done with similar properties nationwide.

"Yes, it is a beautiful, well-kept building, so far," he said. "But as the members of the current lodge tell us they cannot guarantee that will continue. But, maybe, by the mere fact of its design, and not its upkeep, it is obsolete; since they cannot get a buyer for the building's current design, consideration should be given to dismantling the current usage."

"The building most certainly is not obsolete, and the company wishes to purchase the building for use in its current form," McAndrew said. "If Mr. Anderson's view prevails and the zoning change is not granted, the Lodge would likely site vacant for an extended period of time, which is certainly not in the City's or Carthage's best interest."


According to Anderson, the personal training center would lack adequate parking for its customers and ten full-time employees.

"My local fire station captain says that the building could possibly hold a maximum of 200 to 350 people at a time, depending on what equipment and furniture is also inside the building," he said.

But McAndrew said that there would be plenty of parking for the center's patrons, because an arrangement that the Lodge has with the nearby Fellowship Tabernacle church would be continued.

"This is an identical arrangement that the Masonic Lodge enjoyed during the time it owned and used the building, and Lodge meetings were typically attended by upwards of 75 members," he said. "The company does not expect to have that type of attendance on a regular basis."

Anderson was also concerned about the effect that a zoning change would have on the character of the 6800 and 6900 blocks of Vine Street.

"To propose zoning for the whole block to be changed does not take into consideration that all the properties are residences except the one which is a self-serve laundromat which is on the other end of the block," he said.


Anderson said that the barber shop across the street stays open well past its stated closing time – sometimes past 1 a.m. – making security a major problem.

He also said that the Cincinnati Police Department has dubbed the area the "Carthage Corridor" because of rampant drug dealing and prostitution.

"I have called the police about the barber shop being open late like this and they told me that they cannot do anything about the hours the store is open," Anderson said. "So why should we expect this business to obey any self-imposed hours of operation?"

There are also 18 registered sex offenders within one block of the building, and the presence of women and children would be too much of a temptation to them, Anderson said.

"It would not be allowed the other way around – you could not put a registered sex offender within 1,000 feet of a school," he said. "I understand this business is planning to have children's programs during the day, on a daily basis. Otherwise, their application says they expect at least 60 percent of their clientele to be women. Wonderful!"