Zoning changes open the door for more fitness, amusement centers

  • Frank Quinonen works out on the cardio machines at Fitness Forever Hawaii. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Indoor amusement facilities such as fitness and martial arts centers, pool halls and game rooms will be allowed in commercial and industrial zones, under changes the County Council approved Wednesday.

The changes to the zoning law outlined in Bill 94 have been in the works almost a decade, said Planning Program Manager Jeff Darrow. Currently, indoor facilities aren’t allowed in most commercial and industrial zones, while outdoor amusements with much larger impact, such as amusement parks, are allowed there with a special permit.

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“Because of the lack of options for these — health and wellness, martial arts — because they are the main ones that we deal with, we end up finding out that they are popping up in residential and agricultural zoning districts without permits,” Darrow said.

The changes to the zoning code will also prohibit major commercial outdoor recreational and amusement facilities, such as amusement parks, stadiums, skateboard parks, go-cart and automobile race tracks, miniature golf and drive-in theaters, in residential zones.

That proposed change sparked some discussion at an Aug. 1 Windward Planning Commission meeting. Chairman Joseph Clarkson raised concerns that public parks and skateboard parks planned for residential districts could find themselves out of compliance.

“My only comment is to make sure that outdoor recreational facilities that are not commercial are distinguished between the ones that are commercial,” Clarkson said, before voting in favor of the changes.

Both the Windward and the Leeward planning commissions approved the changes prior to the County Council approval.

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That’s good news for at least one prospective facility owner. Thomas Camenzind, of Ascension Fun and Fitness Center, wants to open a fitness center in Hilo that incorporates holistic health classes, general conditioning regimens and proper nutrition with fun activities such as rock climbing, low to high ropes empowerment training and Parkour, a military obstacle course style of training.

“The biggest challenge we now face is to find a facility to create our recreation center in. The majority of spaces that are affordable and have an open, unobstructed floor plan with sufficient ceiling heights are zoned industrial,” Camenzind said in an Aug. 13 letter to the Leeward Planning Commission. “Even though there are quite a few health and fitness ventures who have chosen to ignore the zoning restrictions, we at Ascension fun and fitness feel that doing so would be contrary to our philosophy and teaching principles.”

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