Stonington - The Planning and Zoning Commission quickly approved plans Tuesday night for a 5,500-square-foot CrossFit gym in a vacant section of a mill building at 100 Mechanic St. in Pawcatuck.
The 20-minute public hearing and subsequent approval of a special-use permit by resident and chiropractor Alfred Furtado was in contrast to the two-hour hearing the commission held last month when it debated whether to allow health clubs in the town's manufacturing zones, some of which have large amounts of vacant space. In the end, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the plan.
Following Tuesday's vote, Furtado said he has completed his design for the club and has a contractor ready to start work once the town issues him zoning and building permits. He said he plans to open in January.
The proposal by Furtado's Mystic Spine & Sport comes as the Economic Development Commission, First Selectman Ed Haberek and other town officials look to expand the allowed uses in the manufacturing zones so vacant mill buildings and properties can be reused. The EDC now plans to ask the PZC to expand the uses even further.
EDC Chairman Blunt White said at the October hearing that 70,000 of the 320,000 square feet in the mill where Furtado will now open his gym is vacant, and no new lease has been signed there in five years. He said Yardney's departure down the street will leave an additional 260,000 square feet of empty space.
The commission on Tuesday attached just one stipulation to its approval of a special-use permit for the plan, saying Furtado must submit a sketch of his parking plan for approval by planning staff. Furtado estimates he will use 20 of the lot's 260 spots.
PZC member John Prue had opposed the zone change amendment in October because he felt a health club was not compatible with uses in the zone. He said he worried the town was slowly chipping away from its available manufacturing space. But Tuesday, Prue voted to approve the special-use permit.