EASTON — A 17,200-square-foot Planet Fitness center likely will join Target and the other shops at the Waterside Village at Easton shopping center.
The Easton Planning Commission voted to approve the project’s concept site plans on Thursday afternoon, July 18. Project Manager Brett Ewing with Lane Engineering brought the matter before the planners alongside the property owners from Remco Properties LLC.
The existing infrastructure at 28579 Marlboro Ave. originally was approved as two separate buildings — a 14,000-square-foot two-story office and retail space, and a 5,500-square-foot, one-story restaurant.
Ewing therefore requested a minor PUD (Planned Unit Development) amendment to Phase 1 in combining the two spaces into one. Such a combination resulted in a net reduction of 2,300-square-feet of gross floor area and 80 fewer required parking spaces. A sidewalk connection also was proposed.
In an interview after the meeting, Clelland said he hopes to get approvals in the next couple months and acquire the project’s building permit in the fall with construction beginning in October. He anticipates Planet Fitness will open for business in Easton next summer.
Clelland said the project was submitted to the town about two months ago.
Clelland said he is excited and he feels Planet Fitness “is a good complement to the shopping center ... Crossover traffic will be generated by people using the gym and the shopping centers.”
Fitness Rx Owner Mark Cuviello approached the planners to fight the matter.
“We’re trying to figure out why there should be another gym in this area that has a limited number of population and we already have 10 gyms in the area,” he said. “We’re already bombarded with fitness facilities, and it would definitely affect myself.”
Cuviello said Fitness Rx is the only 24-hour gym in the area, and he said Planet Fitness would cut his gym’s membership in half, if not cause the facility to close its doors altogether.
The Fitness Rx owner offered several statistics about Talbot County’s average household income, pointing to a “very large percentage of poverty and low income.”
In other locations, Cuviello said people own two to three gym memberships, but Easton doesn’t have fitness centers or studios specific to spin or different types of philosophies.
“We don’t decide what businesses work here or what business don’t,” said Talbot Bone of the Easton Planning Commission. “I understand where you’re coming from, but our position is not to decide who comes and who goes.”
Town Attorney Sharon Van Emburgh said the property is a permitted use within the PUD district and that the Easton Planning Commission doesn’t “regulate competition in that avenue.”
“The planning commission’s role is to go from the standards of the site plan review process and determine whether the application meets those standards,” she said.
Cuviello said an employee from the town told him to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I’ve missed the boat,” he said, asking the planners how he could fight the matter moving forward.
“This doesn’t apply to you, but it feels like the Town of Easton doesn’t really care about its existing businesses,” he said.
Richard Tettelbaum of the Easton Planning Commission called Cuviello’s statement an “unfair characterization.”
“I think the Town of Easton cares very much about its businesses,” Tettelbaum said. “What it does not have is the power to control entry and exit. It has no power over competitive entry ... Who competes the best is going to survive.”
“There may be someone out there who can help you, but we don’t know,” Bone said to Cuviello.
Ewing said the next steps for the project are to prepare construction plans, storm water designs and elevations.