Wentzville Planning & Zoning Says No to Downtown Gym, Cites Parking Issues

Mike Woods

At last week’s meeting, the Wentzville Planning and Zoning Commission voted to oppose the construction of a Rhino Hybrid exercise facility in the historic downtown area.

Mike Wood, who owns the Rhino Hybrid fitness center located at 1231 Wentzville Parkway, asked the city for a conditional use permit and site plan approval for a new building at 12 West Main Street. Wood said that the lease was up on the Wentzville Parkway Rhino Hybrid facility, and that he wanted to construct a new facility and move the business to Main Street.

Wood owns the vacant lot at 12 West Main Street, between the Trinity Building, which Wood also owns, and Ellbee’s General Store. The original building that was located on the site was torn down in 2014 because of structural issues. In 2015, Wood was granted approval to build a restaurant, Charlie’s on Main, at that location. Woods said that he chose not to renew plans for the restaurant when they expired, but instead decided to move Rhino Hybrid to that location.

READ MORE: Structural Issues Force Demolition of 100-Year-Old Building on Main Street

The new fitness center, which Wood said would be about the same size as the Wentzville Parkway location, would offer private and small-group weight training, and would have restrooms, lockers, and a child care area. “It’s a boutique type of a business,” Wood said, addressing concerns that the club would draw the amount of traffic that facilities like Club Fitness draw, and would compound the current parking problems in the downtown area.

Woods displayed a chart that outlined a total of 212 available parking spaces, including 55 at the Wentzville Community Club, pending an agreement.

Several downtown business owners and residents spoke at the public hearing. Some were opposed, saying that a health club did not fit the plan for Historical Downtown as a walkable shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. A South Linn resident spoke about the possibility of increased traffic on that street from drivers trying to avoid the stop signs on Church Street.

Another business owner said that increased traffic was a good thing for downtown businesses, but the topic of parking continued to dominate the discussion.

Wood pointed out that the plans that had been approved for Charlie’s on Main included seating for 100 guests. He said that the typical check-in for Rhino Fitness was 21 to 23 members at peak times. “I think there’s adequate and abundant parking.”

“We’ve been told for the last five years that there’s not enough parking,” Commissioner Michael Hays said. “New businesses will reduce the amount of parking per business . . . but do we stop businesses from coming in?”

Other concerns expressed by the commission members were the design, which includes the use of metal siding on the back side of the building, the lack of an agreement between adjoining businesses for the placement of a trash dumpster, and the need for a survey showing the location of city-owned property behind the businesses.

Nevertheless, city staff recommended approval. Doug Forbeck, Community Development Director, said that current zoning regulations for the site had no parking standards. As far as the use of metal, he said, “other metal structures exist” downtown. The fact that health clubs were not in the list of expressly permitted uses for the zoning was not an issue, Forbeck said, because the purpose of a conditional use permit is to consider and allow other uses.

Six members of the nine-member commission voted against both the site plan and the conditional use permit. Wood has since withdrawn his plans, which would have otherwise gone to the board of aldermen for consideration without approval from Planning & Zoning.

The nine-member Planning and Zoning Commission consists of seven residents, along with the mayor and an alderman. The members are appointed by the mayor, with the approval of the board of aldermen.