Northwest News

NWCA endorses athletic club's variance request

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It is what it is, only it isn't. Not really. But one day, it will be.

The Premier at Sawmill Athletic Club isn't, technically, an athletic club.

It's an apartment building. At least that's how it looks on the city's books.

Northwest Civic Association board members last week gave their unanimous approval to the first step in the process of addressing the discrepancy for the site.

The issue came to light when current owners of the fitness facility at 3111 Hayden Road sought refinancing, land-use attorney Jill Tangeman of Vorys, Slater, Seymour and Pease LLC said during a brief presentation at the NWCA board's first monthly meeting of the year.

The property isn't zoned for its current use, an official at the bank discovered, but instead is lumped in under the planned unit development for a nearby apartment complex, Tangeman said.

How this came about is unclear, she admitted.

"The city records were really sketchy," Tangeman said. "There was not a lot of detail."

Originally named the Sawmill Athletic Club, the 60,000-square-foot facility underwent a name change and $5.1-million renovation in 2007.

The place was already 27 years old at that point.

Technically, the Premier at Sawmill Athletic Club shouldn't be operating, but over the years city officials have issued building permits and other types of licensing, according to Tangeman.

Fixing the problem isn't as simple as merely rezoning the site of the club; doing so would affect the density of surrounding apartment property, the attorney said.

What's needed is a Columbus City Council variance to allow the existing uses to continue, Tangeman added.

"It would be a sort of special exception for this property," she said.

The current owners of the club are not seeking any expansion or changes, according to the land-use lawyer.

During a brief discussion following Tangeman's presentation, NWCA board member Jeanne Ashby pointed out to the attorney advertising banners are frequently flown outside the Hayden Road facility.

The banners violate the city's graphics code, Ashby said.

Tangeman promised to advise her client of this.

The vote to approve the request for the council variance was unanimous.

Tangeman said she did not expect the issue to come before City Council for quite some time.

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