A 24-hour fitness center will soon occupy a portion of the long-vacant Ice Barn property on Route 7, as Milton’s Development Review board OK’d a proposal at a hearing last week.
SNAP Fitness, a franchise with 1,400 gyms nationwide, will open in by January 2014, owner Brad Lockwood said. The proposal passed, 3-0.
The permit marks the first tenant activity on the 11-acre property since the skating rink closed in summer 2011. The former owners entered foreclosure then, and almost a year later, real estate developer Patrick Malone bought it for $800,000.
Lockwood, who operates two SNAPs in Burlington and Berlin, said he’s been looking at the Ice Barn lot for a year and a half and thinks Milton’s demographics can support another fitness center. Town officials hoped for indoor recreation there and are pleased the property is developing, Zoning Administrator Taylor Newton said.
The barn itself, a 29,150 square foot space, won’t be impacted by the new gym, which will occupy the front building, a former video store. Malone is still seeking a tenant to run a rink, said Brian Bertsch, Malone’s engineer with O’Leary-Burke Civil Associates.
The 6,000-square foot facility will house free weights, cardio machines, a group fitness room and a stand-up tanning bed, Lockwood said. Memberships will cost $40 a month.
The center won’t be staffed 24/7, and during the overnight hours, gym-goers can still take classes by following a video, Lockwood said.
But the DRB hearing didn’t focus on these details – instead, most of the 40-minute discussion centered on town staff’s request that Malone provide a 60-foot public right-of-way to form the long-discussed “East-West Road,” an alternate meant to ease Route 7 traffic burdens.
The route would connect Racine Road to the Bombardier Park area. Getting a public ROW upfront will be a first for the town, Newton said.
Of the eight affected lots, three show private rights-of-way in their land records, OK’ing the eventual town takeover, he said. This includes Billy Sawyer, who can’t finish his Southerberry apartment complex build out until he connects to another public road like the East-West, Newton said.
Unlike the former owners, Malone is happy to allow the ROW, but it shouldn’t be tied to the gym approval, Bertsch said. Issuing a public ROW would require Malone to re-survey the lot, costing both time and $5,000 in engineering fees, he said.
Bertsch requested the ROW be recorded instead when Malone builds Phase II on the site, a 13,230-square-foot addition to the rink, or when Bud McCormick develops his adjacent lot, next to Sears.
At the hearing, Newton advocated for setting a two-year timeframe on the deeding or tying it to Sawyer’s project, but DRB member Bruce Jenkins said, “we can’t tie that to someone else’s development.”
However, the DRB’s signed approval will likely do just that: Newton expects the DRB to require the ROW recording within 180 days after McCormick’s forthcoming traffic light on Route 7 is operational or after Malone’s own Phase II is built.
Bertsch and Lockwood were happy with the result.
“You don’t want to build a road to nowhere,” Lockwood said. “It does make sense when they get an intersection and a light.”
That change will also close the Ice Barn’s Route 7 curb cut, a stipulation in the property’s Act 250 land use permit. All traffic will be routed through “Lindbergh Drive,” a new road on McCormick’s plan, across from Milton Mobile Home Cooperative.
It’s still unclear who will actually pay for the East-West Road when and if it’s built, DRB members indicated. Chairman Allen Lasell said once all the surveys are in place, the landowners and town can start negotiations.
Newton said the town hoped to obtain the ROW sooner but appreciates Malone’s willingness to work with staff.
Asked about the overall timeframe, Newton said he’s not sure when McCormick’s lot will break ground, though the developer told Bertsch he’s ready to build as he exited the hearing. The plan, for which the DRB granted an initial approval, still has to meet many conditions before developers can pull a zoning permit, Newton said.
Bertsch gave no indication when Malone’s own Phase II will begin.
Still, Newton said he’s ecstatic there’s action at the prime spot.
“I’m really happy to see something go in there and hopeful that the Ice Barn may be resurrected,” he said. “We don’t want any empty storefronts on U.S. Route 7 if we can help it.”
Malone has also applied for an Act 250 permit amendment, a minor change. Parties have until October 29 to request a hearing. Newton expects the DRB will sign its permit in two weeks.