Expansion plans by Aquachamps, a swim school on Northeast 26 Street, have been at least temporarily denied by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board [P&Z].
At the Nov. 13 P&Z meeting, Aquachamps’ owners presented their plans to redevelop an existing property adjacent to their existing location in order to add more parking, an ADA accessible pool, and improve landscaping and walls to further decrease the noise generated by the children who use the school.
According to a record of the meeting provided by the city, members of the public who support the school say it provides a valuable service to children who learn to swim. Dan Vawter, co-owner and head coach of Aquachamps, said if the ADA pool is built then the school would be able to offer aqua therapy classes to senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Those who spoke against Aquachamps say the school is a traffic hazard on Northeast 26 Street, parents park in their driveways, and the children make too much noise. Vawter said everything possible has been done to reduce the noise, including hiring acoustical engineers to determine what kind of wall and landscaping is needed.
Ken Shalley, who said he lives directly next door to Aquachamps, said at the meeting that he thinks too much is being made of the noise generated by the children. He added that the real issue is parking and traffic.
But others who live near or next to Aquachamps say the noise is a big problem.
Maria Pazos is one of them and said she is unable to enjoy her backyard. Pazos, who is also a realtor, added that she was unable to sell a neighbor’s home because of the school.
In an interview with The Gazette, P&Z Member Constance Ruppender said she voted against Aquachamps’ plan because it was the “Wrong project. Wrong place.” She also said the intended use of the ROS-C zoning district where Aquachamps is located is to encourage quiet, office-based businesses to locate there. “They’re supposed to live there,” she said.
At the meeting, P&Z Chair Nick Berry said he thought the new plan was an improvement on the safety of the current situation.
In an interview with The Gazette, Vawter said he’s not happy about the current situation with the city and P&Z over this issue. He said the whole process has left him and his partners irritated. Asked if Aquachamps would appeal the P&Z’s decision, he said he doesn’t know yet.
“We’d like to find a home that’s business friendly. We might move [to another city]. We just have a bad taste with this whole process. It was mismanaged from the beginning.”
He added that Aquachamps is good for the city’s economy. “We bring thousands of families into Wilton Manors [who then shop at local business and eat at local restaurants] who normally wouldn’t have visited.”