GROTON — The Planning Board edged closer last week to approval of a proposal by the owner of a local fitness club to expand his business into a new building at 306 Main St.
The movement came following the continuation of a public hearing on Feb. 2 dealing with Anytime Fitness owner Anthony VivoAmore’s plan to move his business from its current location at 536 Main St. into a new building to be constructed directly across the street.
The 306 Main St. site had previously been rezoned from residential to business following an effort by the property’s previous owner, Topsfield developer Steve Gillis.
At the time, Gillis had planned to construct a two story, 20,000 square-foot office/retail building on the property, but when the economy slowed down, the project was never pursued.
Meanwhile, VivoAmore’s Anytime Fitness Center has been growing since its 2007 opening in the Residential Gardens plaza. For that reason, plans were made to move across the street and into a new building that would increase floor space from 4,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet while maintaining the same footprint that Gillis had proposed four years before.
But where Gillis had proposed a two-story building, VivoAmore only plans to construct a single-story structure with up to 40 parking spaces.
And there lay the rub for members of the Planning Board who felt that the main entrance of the building should face the street and that parking should be kept to a minimum and hidden to the rear of the structure.
Calling those elements of VivoAmore’s plans “non-starters” at a previous meeting, board Chairman Russell Burke was still unsatisfied last week, characterizing the latest proposals for parking “excessive” and the orientation of the building toward Main Street “disappointing.”
“I haven’t seen a genuine attempt to make it work,” Burke concluded.
Burke’s remarks followed a presentation by VivoAmore attorney Robert Anctil demonstrating that there were plenty of other businesses along Main Street with parking in front of their buildings and that in any case, it was his client’s belief that the extra parking spaces would be needed in the future as his business expanded.
“I’m not a really big fan of parking in front of a business,” admitted board member John Giger following Anctil’s presentation, but he said he was willing to give the business owner the benefit of the doubt as it was VivoAmore who was taking the risk in expanding his business in the first place.
It was an attitude quickly adopted by other members of the board who then set their meeting of Feb. 23 to continue the public hearing, at which time the applicant was expected to return with a fine-tuned site plan that included screening, a redesign of the side of the building facing the street, and possible parking configuration.