Howell zoning board agrees with request for fitness center permit

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HOWELL – The Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment has recommended the approval of a temporary use permit that would allow a fitness center to operate in the Quail Creek Plaza.

Quail Creek Plaza is a strip mall at the intersection of Ramtown-Greenville and Newtons Corner roads in the Ramtown section of Howell.

In January, Jemand Ezeonwuka, who owns EZE Fitness, described a zoning issue and asked the Township Council for guidance in regard to his business. The council members recommended that he appear before the zoning board to seek a temporary use permit.

The council members said if Ezeonwuka obtained the permit, he would be able to operate the business and the council would have time to amend an ordinance which prohibits a small fitness center from occupying space in the Quail Creek Plaza.

On Feb. 11, EZE Fit Howell and Quail Creek Shopping Center LLC appeared before the zoning board to seek a temporary use permit. Ezeonwuka, attorney Todd Cohen, and Michelle Rusinek, the owner of the plaza, appeared before the zoning board.

Ezeonwuka lives in Howell and owns EZE Fitness facilities in Neptune City and Brick Township.

“It is a small group training studio and a personal training studio. We train about 90 percent women and 10 percent men. We do mostly weights, and strength and conditioning exercises. We have been in Neptune for nine years and in Brick for eight years,” Ezeonwuka testified.

Cohen asked Ezeonwuka to describe the differences between the fitness center he is proposing at Quail Creek Plaza and a fitness center that is sometimes referred to as a “big box gym.”

“At most big box gyms you can show up at any time and work out. We do not do that,” Ezeonwuka said. “Our program is based on classes. People come to our gym to get transformed, we are not a typical gym.

“(Our clients) have to book their classes, they come in and work with a personal trainer. We have one or two personal trainers and they work with a group to help (clients) transform their life over the course of the months they are training at our gym,” he testified.

The fitness center’s hours of operation at Quail Creek Plaza would be Monday through Saturday. Morning classes would include 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. sessions. Evening classes would include 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. sessions.

Testimony from the applicant’s representatives indicated that between 10:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. there would not be much activity at EZE Fitness. Activity would likely consist of an individual in a one-on-one session with a trainer.

“We have an average of 15 people in a class. The maximum (number) will be in the 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. (classes), which will be up to 20 people because that is when most people try to get their training in,” Ezeonwuka testified.

Testimony indicated that the most people in the 2,000-square-foot fitness center at one time would be 22.

Cohen asked Rusinek to address parking at Quail Creek Plaza. The plaza’s tenants include a pharmacy, a bar and grill, a coffee shop and a dentist’s office.

“We have 177 parking spaces in the main section. I referenced surveillance footage and there are always a lot of empty spaces,” Rusinek said, adding that the plaza could “definitely accommodate” EZE Fitness.

“The morning hours are right before people get into work and there are definitely a lot of spaces then. Even in the evening, there is always a lot of parking,” Rusinek testified.

The applicant was asked if there would be any tournaments or functions during which members of the public would be invited to EZE Fitness.

“The only thing we do is a grand opening fundraiser for the fire department. We have done it for Neptune and Brick,” Ezeonwuka said.

Ezeonwuka testified he has a three-year lease at the Quail Creek Plaza. He requested a two-year temporary use permit. No one from the public commented on the applicant’s request for a temporary use permit.

After listening to the testimony, the zoning board members voted unanimously to recommend approval of a temporary use permit for EZE Fitness to the Township Council.