YMCA to resubmit plans for Bethel Park center

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The YMCA is fighting to convert the Blade Runners ice rink in Bethel Park into a fitness center, despite a judge's order that overturned the project's zoning approval.

“The Y has served the residents of the South Hills for 70 years. We will stand by our commitment to this community,” said Rig Riggins, president and CEO, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled in May that the YMCA hadn't shown the Bethel Park Zoning Hearing Board sufficient evidence that the property couldn't be developed without an exemption from zoning restrictions that prohibit educational studios, bowling, aerobic and weight lifting facilities. The YMCA bought Blade Runners in 2012 with the intention of converting it into the Spencer Family YMCA, which would replace its facility in Upper St. Clair.

The Y and Bethel Park have appealed the decision to Commonwealth Court and are awaiting a court date.

“It certainly validated what my clients have been saying all along,” said Robert Xides Jr., an attorney representing resident Harry Chapman, HealthTrax Fitness & Wellness and Curves of Bethel Park. Xides and his clients had claimed the property didn't need the fitness center and a zoning variance because it was viable as an ice rink.

The YMCA has made a second application to the municipal zoning hearing board and the Bethel Park Council, seeking the board's approval of the fitness center as an “accessory use” to the existing ice rink (one of the two existing ice sheets would remain) and the council's approval of the overall project.

“The argument they're using is that the weight lifting is part of their overall health and fitness goals,” Bethel Park planner Jerry Duke said.

He compared it to the restaurant within the existing ice rink: A stand-alone restaurant isn't allowed as the site is zoned, but it is permitted as an accessory serving the ice rink.

The YMCA has contracted with Blade Runners, which owns and operates rinks in Harmarville and Warrendale, to run the rink until renovations begin. The pro shop was shut down shortly after the Y bought the building and renovations were made to the rink, which the Y will keep for youth, high school and adult rec hockey leagues.

There will be a public hearing at Bethel Park Council's meeting on Aug. 25 on the YMCA's second application for the project. The zoning hearing board will hear the application for the accessory use at its Sept. 2 meeting, Duke said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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