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Commission Rejects Avon Snap Fitness 24-Hour Access Request

The Avon Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the application at its meeting Tuesday.

Update, 12:58 a.m.

The Avon Planning and Zoning Commission voted by a 5-2 majority Tuesday night to deny Snap Fitness permission to grant members 24-hour access to the gym.

Commissioner Carol Griffin made the motion and it was seconded by Marianne Clark.

New franchise owner Michele Pellegatto, one of the gym's first original members, submitted the application.

"I think it's very disappointing," Pellegatto told Patch after the meeting. "The committee, a majority, feels that the safety is the main concern. Obviously, I strongly disagree that and it's very disappointing."

Pellegatto said that camera surveillance is one security measure in place during unstaffed hours through an off-site vendor.

Approval would have allowed the gym to be open between midnight and 5 a.m., which is currently restricted. Pellegatto estimated that about three people a day would go during those extended hours.

“An additional five hours of being open I don’t think is a high impact," Pellegatto told the commission.

Members have been asking Pellegatto for 24-hour access. She told the commission that it would make the gym more competitive with places like Simsbury's The Zoo Health Club down the road that are accessible 24/7.

The national Snap Fitness brand markets its gyms as being 24/7 operations. But the Avon location's requests had been denied at least twice before the latest special exception application.

Pellegatto said she was prepared to address why the plan is important in a business sense at the meeting, but she was surprised to hear about many nearby residents were opposed to it.

Francis Avenue and Lawrence Avenue residents addressed concerns of lighting, car headlight spillover, noise from car doors and possible alarms and the safety of members leaving the gym. Griffin also expressed safety concerns.

Some neighbors opposing the plan said that they'd call the police to report issues like noise complaints if the proposal were to pass. In that regard, Pellegatto said that the outcome is probably for the better.

"Why are we bothering the police officers with piddly little items when they could be actually policing things that are far more dangerous and far more in need?" Pellegatto said. "At the end of the day, it's going to harm not just me, but it's going to harm the taxpayers of Avon.

When asked if she would consider appealing the decision, Pellegatto said that "if there was an overwhelming response, absolutely."

Original Story

Under the new ownership of Snap Fitness, one of the changes being considered at the Avon gym is 24-hour access.

New owner Michele Pellegatto has applied for a special exception through the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission to extend the fitness center's hours to make it a 24/7 business.

The proposal will be reviewed by the commission at its Tuesday night meeting.

The national Snap Fitness website markets the gyms as offering 24-hour access. However, the Avon Snap Fitness franchise is currently open from 5 a.m. to midnight, Pellegatto wrote to town staff and the commission. The gym is staffed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the Avon Snap Fitness website.

Pellegatto wrote to the commission that Snap Fitness "has slowly been growing membership" since it opened in August 2010. But she said membership has decreased more than 25 percent since The Zoo Health Club opened recently in Simsbury Commons just over the Avon town line. She noted in the letter that the competing gym, located just a mile down the road, "has a similar fitness model" to Snap Fitness and 24-hour key card access.

She wrote in the letter to the commission that she doesn't "believe the full impact of [The Zoo's] presence has been experienced just yet as we move into the New Year" and people's memberships "are up for renewal." She told the commission that she hopes to double the gym's membership and does not want its current business hours to deter people from joining.

"As the new owner of Snap Fitness (January 3, 2013), I am seeking ways to better compete in the market place and being granted 24 hour access is one of the first steps I am taking to do so," Pellegatto wrote to the commission. "I will be able to market the facility as a 24 hour facility just like my competitor and not risk losing or not appealing to members that might benefit from the extended business hours."

This is not the first time Snap Fitness has approached the commission for permission to be open 24 hours since its initial zoning application was approved in April of 2010. The commission approved the application under the condition that the business remain closed between midnight and 5 a.m., according to documented planning staff comments. Former owner Josh Livingston approached the commission a month later asking that the restriction on the hours be eliminated, but the request was voted down.

Avon Town Planner Steven Kushner said that nearby residents of Francis and Lawrence Avenues have expressed concerns about noise and late night visitors to the area should the gym be allowed to offer 24-hour access.

Scott Simmons, chairman of The Francis & Lawrence Avenue Association, wrote to Kushner on Jan. 7 that the association "strongly opposes" the new application. He named the following reasons residents on those streets are against the commission approving 24-hour access at Snap Fitness – extended business lightning, vehicle headlights shining as cars cycle through the parking lot, noise from car doors closing and alarms possibly going off, and client safety.

Kushner said that Pellegatto has pointed out that there are two banks close by that have 24-hour ATMs. Police confirmed with town staff that people have driven in to use those ATMs as late as 2 or 3 a.m. before, Kushner said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Avon Town Hall.

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