Residents express concerns about new LA Fitness in Wheaton

Despite opposition from many neighbors, construction on a new LA Fitness at 700 and 800 E. Roosevelt Road in Wheaton is likely to begin soon.

Two existing commercial buildings that formerly held an auto dealership would be demolished to make room for the proposed 34,000-square-foot facility and 238 parking spaces.

While the plans meet all the requirements laid out in the city's zoning ordinance, work cannot begin until the council makes a decision about a restrictive covenant created in 1965 that forbid buildings within 103 feet of the south end of the property.

LA Fitness is proposing a building setback of 42 feet along the south property line, which is nearly three times the 15 feet required by the city's current requirements. That setback would fall more in line with other facilities in the area, such as a new AAA auto repair facility that has a 50-foot setback and a Bucky's car wash that will have a 40-foot setback.

On Monday, the city council came to a consensus to amend the restrictive covenant, to reduce the 103 feet to 42 feet. Council members also supported a proposal to make new power lines less intrusive to neighbors by having them come from the east instead of the south, and asked that no curb cuts be made on Chase Street.

More than a dozen neighbors, including several who reside on Chase Street, voiced concerns about increased traffic in an already busy area that is poorly lighted and lacks sidewalks.

"I'm just really concerned that the city of Wheaton is putting our children, our families in greater danger of being struck by a vehicle," said Derrick Foreman, who lives on Pershing Avenue, the street directly south of the subject area.

Other residents expressed worry over the lack of speed limit signs in the area, possible stormwater problems that could arise with the construction of the new building and lights from the gym shining into their homes during its long hours of operation. The council also was presented with a petition containing 77 signatures from people who opposed the LA Fitness.

"We would all like to see something go in on Roosevelt, but this I don't think is the best project for that site," said resident Tim Weber, who lives on Weaver Court. "I do think there will be interest in that property from another development."

However, some of the councilmen pointed out that other developers who might want to build something on the property could ask that a building be constructed closer to the setback.

"I'm concerned about just having this thing sit for a few more years and then have something that would be even less desirable," said Councilman John Rutledge. "If it complied completely with the code, we would not really have any way to stop it, including the access off Chase."

They added that there is no stormwater detention on the site right now, and with the construction of a new building, stormwater improvements would be made.

Councilwoman Suzanne Fitch said she believes the concerns neighbors have about the traffic and lack of sidewalks should be addressed, but separately from the LA Fitness project.

"This is a great improvement over what is there now," she said. "We need this property to turn over and be redeveloped."

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