After a three hour meeting on Monday night, attended by more than 50 people, the issue of whether LA Fitness can operate a 24/7 fitness center in the Wynnewood Shopping Center has still not been resolved. The hearing will be continued on Sept. 20.
Federal Realty Investment Trust, owners of the , came before the Zoning Hearing Board in July to request a special exception allowing a fitness center use in the shopping center's old Borders space. Specifically, in the building, with better amenities and higher membership fees than a typical LA Fitness, said Chad Abramo, LA Fitness vice president, at the July 12 meeting.
At the July meeting, Abramo also requested that LA Fitness retain the option to be open 24/7 if the company deemed it economically advantageous.
It is primarily the 24/7 hours that concerns members of the Shortridge and Wynnewood Civic Associations, which were jointly represented at Monday's meeting by attorney and previous zoning board chairman Kenneth Aaron.
In the time between the initial zoning hearing board meeting and Monday's meeting, the civics had requested to become parties in the case, opposing the shopping center's request for a special exception.
"With that," said Federal Realty's attorney, Marc Kaplin, "the complexion of this hearing changes somewhat ... now, this is an adversarial hearing."
Cross-examining Shortridge Civic Association President Joan Hindin and Wynnewood Civic Association President Teri Simon, Kaplin attempted to show that the two civics should not be accepted as parties in the case because they had the same grievances as the general public, he said.
Simon held that the civic's primary grievance was that a 24/7 LA Fitness would change the community "to an extent that would be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the surrounding neighborhoods."
Following more than an hour of Kaplin's cross-examination, the zoning hearing board ultimately granted standing to both civics.
Among the testimony presented on behalf of the civics was a list of crime statistics for Bala Cynwyd's LA Fitness and other Lower Merion fitness centers. Aaron asked Lower Merion Police Superintendent Michael McGrath to testify regarding crime rates at various fitness facilities throughout the township from 2009 to present. A PDF of those statistics, provided to Patch by Aaron in email, is included in the gallery above.
Crimes in eight categories were considered. Following is the data for thefts from vehicles and other thefts (which includes locker thefts, retail thefts, etc.) at LA Fitness and the surrounding Bala Shopping Center from 2009 to present.
Thefts from motor vehicles (72.3 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2009: 13 thefts at LA Fitness, four thefts in rest of shopping center (76.4 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2010: 16 thefts at LA Fitness, two thefts in rest of shopping center (88.8 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2011: Two thefts at LA Fitness, four thefts in rest of shopping center (33.3 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2012: Three thefts at LA Fitness, three thefts in rest of shopping center (50 percent at LA Fitness)
Other thefts (10 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2009: 12 thefts at LA Fitness, 73 thefts in rest of shopping center (14.1 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2010: Seven thefts at LA Fitness, 71 thefts in rest of shopping center (8.9 percent at LA Fitness)
- 2011: Six thefts at LA Fitness, 69 thefts in rest of shopping center (8 percent)
- 2012: Four thefts at LA Fitness, 46 thefts in rest of shopping center (8 percent)
In comparison, Philadelphia Sports Club had two thefts from motor vehicles between 2009 and 2012 and four other thefts.
- The had four thefts from motor vehicles and five other thefts between 2009 and 2012.
- The had one theft from motor vehicle and four other thefts between 2009 and 2012.
- The in Ardmore, opened Nov. 2010 and now a 24/7 facility, had no reported thefts from motor vehicles, and three other thefts between its opening and 2012.
- The has had six thefts from motor vehicles and 77 other thefts between 2009 and 2012.
The comparably high rate of crime at LA Fitness in Bala, McGrath said, is explained by numerous factors: location, access to property, how much security is provided at a particular property, and the number of people that utilize the facility.
The JCC, for example, has very limited access, McGrath said. More access sites means it's harder to control access and security.
McGrath also testified that the statistics did not show an increase in crime at Planet Fitness after it became a 24/7 facility.
As the zoning board had decided to conclude at 10 p.m. and it was already past the hour, the meeting adjourned before Kaplin had a chance to cross-examine McGrath.
Nonetheless, Kaplin said, "I think the case is over; so I ask you to close the record as to evidence."
Aaron indicated that he had several more witnesses to call at the next meeting, and the zoning board continued the hearing for Sept. 20.