The Ottumwa Courier

July 16, 2013

Former Salvation Army building to convert into fitness center

By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — A former Salvation Army office will be transformed into a fitness center.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the city council approved the rezoning request of Ken Crosser, who purchased the building at 203 W. Fourth St. The property will be rezoned from an Office-Apartment District to a C-1 Retail Business District.

"We want to turn it into a fitness center for public and employee use," Crosser said.

At a meeting earlier this month, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied the rezoning request "based on potential off-side impacts of a commercial use site," said Planning and Development Director Nick Klimek.

A group of nearby property owners and a landlord came forward at the commission's meeting with concerns that the rezoning to a commercial district would invite future bars or restaurants to move in should the fitness center vacate the property.

But the plan Crosser presented to the commission was a two-part request. The second part involved turning a nearby property into "transitional housing," which would include communal restrooms and kitchens with eight to 10 "dorm-style units."

"But the commission, as well as the attending public, objected primarily to the C-1 zoning classification in general," Klimek said.

Crosser has since withdrawn the request for transitional housing, Klimek said.

Crosser also purchased the property (previously a law office) next to the building, which he plans to demolish in order to add parking for the fitness center.

But that piece of the puzzle wasn't included in the property's rezoning Tuesday night, Klimek said. The proposed parking lot would have to come back to the council at a later date for approval.

Wapello County Public Health Clinical Director Lynelle Diers said this is another step the city can take in increasing its overall health and well-being.

Wapello County currently ranks 91st out of 99 Iowa counties in terms of health, up from 94th last year.

"Even though it's small steps, we are going forward," Diers said. "What Crosser is proposing ... is an opportunity to have another access point for people to use this equipment to become healthier."

Noma Woudenberg, who owns property in the area of the proposed fitness center, said while she thinks another fitness center is a great idea, she has concerns about how the rezoning could affect her own property.

"I do have concerns about what might happen to this property at a later time," she said. "It could become a bar, a restaurant, a gas station. I really like Sonic, but I don't know if you've driven by there at 10 p.m. ... the houses across the street from it have huge light issues. It really does impact the quality of life."

The council also unanimously approved the purchase of a new fire truck for the Ottumwa Fire Department, which will cost anywhere from $950,000 to $1 million.

"We've been trying to get the cheapest price for the truck that we could possibly get," said Fire Chief Tony Miller. "I just found out recently that we can bid the equipment on the truck on its own and save the city some additional money."

The 1977 American LaFrance Snorkel has already been taken out of service and with a new fire truck coming in, Miller hopes to place another older truck, the 1990 Mack Pumper, out at the airbase.

He said there are so many mechanical problems with the 36-year-old truck that it would be impossible to get any more life out of it.

"I think this is definitely a long overdue piece of equipment," said Councilman Brian Morgan. "It's not a toy; it's not a luxury item. It's something that's needed."

The city will bond for the purchase over a period of six to 10 years, said Finance Director Bob Jay.

The city council will meet again following the solid waste commission meeting Wednesday night to discuss a grant application for a new flood mitigation program.