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Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by Gene Davis

BoA changes designation for two CrossFit facilities

During a dramatic, packed-beyond-capacity special meeting, the Board of Adjustment voted to reverse a previous staff decision and change the land use designation for two CrossFit locations in Brentwood.

The new land use designation could potentially put CrossFit Central, 6205 Burnet Road, and BVM CrossFit, 6711 Burnet Lane, out of business at their current locations. A group of neighbors, who said the loud noises from the nearby CrossFit businesses negatively impacted their quality of life, greeted the board’s vote with cheers.

The Planning and Development Review Department had previously determined the Personal Improvement Services designation for the two CrossFit locations. In explaining the decision, Planning and Development Review Department’s Jerry Rusthoven told board members that, similar to how some gyms have outdoor pools and still fall under the Personal Improvement Services designation, staff decided that CrossFit could hold some outdoor workouts and still fall under the same category.

Neighbors Mo Harry and Stephanie Garrett appealed the Planning and Development Review Department’s decision, claiming that Outdoor Sports and Recreation is more appropriate than Personal Improvement Services at both CrossFit locations. Last night, board members sided with their appeal.

“I’m really, really happy with this decision,” said Harry. “This has been an ongoing disruption to our family and homes. I feel like this is something that will hopefully contribute to some peace.”

Before the vote, Harry told Board of Adjustment members that a significant percentage of CrossFit workouts happen outside in the facility’s parking lot. And even when the workouts are inside the facility, he said the garage bay doors are typically wide open. He showed videos to board members of the outdoor workouts to prove how loud they sounded from his backyard.

“I shouldn’t have to escape from my house to find peace and quiet,” Harry said.

Meanwhile, Valerie Hunt, owner of BVM CrossFit, said the Board of Adjustment vote was tough because she makes her living operating the business. She said she tried to appease neighbors by installing a soundproof floor and not offering evening classes. She added that she would look to move her business to a new location after her lease expires in a year.

“In hindsight, we never would have opened if we knew it would impact (neighbors) like it does,” Hunt said. “We’re not bad people; we’re not mean-spirited.”

The discussion among Board of Adjustment members boiled down to whether they should change the land use designation for the two CrossFit businesses from Personal Improvement Services, which includes gyms, yoga and dance studios, to Outdoor Sports and Recreation, which includes miniature golf courses and outdoor pools. The Brentwood Master Plan does not allow Outdoor Sports and Recreation as a permitted land use for the two CrossFit locations.

Rusthoven explained that City Council was aware of the issue of the CrossFit businesses in Brentwood and passed a resolution directing city staff to evaluate options for better measuring amplified sound from outdoor recreation and fitness facilities. However, he said that Planning and Review had not made significant progress on the resolution due to a backlog of other recent resolutions.

Later in the meeting, Board Chair Jeff Jack said that CrossFit is a new kind of business and does not share much in common with traditional, enclosed gyms.

“To me, if it squawks like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck,” he said. “Because of the characteristics of use, it is more consistent with Outdoor Recreation and Sports than it is with Personal Services.”

Board Member Vincent Harding, who voted against the land designation change ultimately voted in favor of the land designation change, urged board members not to overturn the Planning and Review Department’s decision and instead ask Council to quickly move to find a solution that works for both parties.

However, Jack said the board’s vote in favor of the land use change could be the cause for Council to act quickly.

“The fastest way to get Council to act is to create a situation where they feel urgency,” he said.

Jack stressed that the vote would apply only to the two CrossFit businesses in question and not the other CrossFit locations in Austin.

CrossFit workouts incorporate elements from high intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, power lifting, gymnastics and other exercises.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Board of Adjustment: The city's Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that decides on variances, special exceptions and can issue interpretations of code.

Planning and Development Review: The Planning and Development Review Department is responsible for Austin's city planning, preservation, and design. The department also provides development review and inspection services for the city.

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