Life Time offers a fitness center for the Poway farm

Poway residents and leaders have been divided over plans for a proposed Life Time Fitness Center at The Farm complex, which would include a coffee shop and bistro, as well as a center offering cardio and strength training equipment, along with studios offering classes for all ages.

Christopher Campbell, Life Time’s development manager, presented images of the proposed fitness center at the March 7 City Council meeting. The center will also feature outdoor activities, including swimming areas and space for six pickleball courts or three tennis courts.

“The farm itself is particularly attractive to us because its design is centered around activities that support a healthy and active lifestyle, which is at the heart of Life Time’s mission of healthy living,” said Campbell.

Plans for the fitness center – more than 10 times the size of the original proposal – were unveiled at a pre-development conference. Life Time was seeking input on the project, and if they choose to proceed, it will go back to the board for approval.

Along with single-family and multi-family housing options, the farm’s development plan includes community amenities including parks and 3.5 miles of walking trails, community gardens, an event space, a cafe, a butterfly garden, a community classroom and a fitness club with playing fields for recreation and swimming pool. Restaurants and businesses were also included.

The plan designates more than 55 acres for open space conservation and 14 acres for open space for recreation.

The fitness center, originally proposed at 2,953 square feet, would take up all 30,500 square feet that voters approved for the outdoor recreation project.

However, Bob Manis, director of the city’s development office, said the new estimated total space to be used by Life Time, along with the other proposed recreation facilities, would be 49,561 square feet.

A traffic study done after the 2020 vote to approve the farm development included a new metric for average daily trips that could be used to determine the maximum open space for recreation.

The California Air Pollution Control Association study showed 2,487 average daily trips, less than the 2,524 allowed, Manis said. As the calculations came in below the threshold, it allowed the maximum square meter of open recreational land to increase to 53,700, he said.

Manis said after the meeting that the land designated for non-residential outdoor recreation purposes would not change, but the size of buildings in the already designated space could be larger. It was this increase in square footage that allowed Life Time to offer the concept of its larger, higher-end fitness center instead of the nearly 3,000-square-foot fitness center that was part of the 2020 ballot — and was not affiliated with Life Time.

Council member Barry Leonard said he largely supports the project, but has concerns about how close the Life Time Fitness Center will be to The Farm residents.

Councilman Peter DeHoff shared Leonard’s concern for neighbors near the fitness center.

Campbell said a block wall and trees will muffle any potential noise coming from the gym, and the developer will continue to add greenery on the west side, closest to the farm, so residents have more natural views.

Council member Brian Pepin said he would like to see some changes to the design of the fitness center.

“It’s important to me that it looks more like Poway, so I hope to see that improve even more,” Pepin said.

Poway residents also expressed concern about the change from the original plans.

Ron Lewis expressed his disappointment that the project may not include tennis courts. He said before and after the project was voted on in November 2020, it was confirmed that between six and eight courts would be built.

“My plea to the City Council is very simple: Let the developer build what was proposed to the voters of Poway and approved by the voters of Poway,” Lewis said, prompting scattered applause.

Kevin McNamara, a Poway resident and managing partner of The Farm in Poway LLC, said Life Time will bring something special to the city of Poway.

“We have a nice community, but we don’t have great stores and we don’t have great restaurants. Life Time offers us greatness and I thought it was worth it,” said McNamara, who received some jeers from the audience.

A butterfly farm and education center is under construction, along with 14 acres of flower fields, McNamara said. The restaurants and social areas will be reduced by 10,000 square feet.

A tennis court won’t be built if Life Time can’t get City Council approval, McNamara said, adding that pickleball has grown in popularity.

Sterling Miles said he is moving to the Farm with his family in the summer. A member of Life Time La Jolla, Miles said he doesn’t think the videos and PowerPoints do it justice.

“Life Time complements The Farm and The Farm complements Poway,” Miles said. “And you will all benefit from it, and I hope my family will too. The most important thing to me is community, and Life Time brings that.”

Construction on the farm and its 160 residential lots is ongoing and should be completed by the first quarter of 2024, officials said.

If the fitness center plan is returned, the City Council will make the final decision because the proposed change falls under the category of minor plan changes, Mayor Steve Vause said.

Vaus said that while he’s pleased that Life Time is working with Poway residents and listening to their concerns throughout the process, he thinks more work needs to be done.

“You’ve come a long way since the first interpretations we saw,” he said. “But I agree with my fellow council members that there is still some way to go.”

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