Plans to establish a new crossfit business inside an existing industrial facility in Rochester were tabled on Monday, November 5 by the city's planning commission.
The plans, which were unanimously tabled by commissioners would allow for a Penn Central Crossfit location at 326 Albertson Street, which is located in a building already being used for industrial purposes. The building's owners Jeff Russell and Kim Russell — the later who serves as the Rochester Mayor Pro Tem on City Council — have owned the building for about 20 years. The Helro Corporation has used it since 1998 as an industrial operation.
Jeff Russell said that since industrial operations have slowed in recent years, the use will downsize from 7,750 square feet to about 2,600 square feet, with the remaining space intended to be used by Penn Central Crossfit.
Russell said they relocated Helro there after buying the building in 1998. Previously, the building was home to Drescher Tool Manufacturing for nearly 20 years; a previous office space for Frank Rewold and Son; and a Standard Oil facility. Russell said contamination from the oil facility has rendered the site useless under residential zoning, due to the high cost to remediate polluted soil.
"Single-family residential isn't feasible due to the contamination," he said. "We attempted to look into that and there was no real interest in developing, and that's due to the nature of the costs." However, residents in the area who spoke at Monday's meeting disagreed.
Laura Colman, who lives in the area, gave the commission a presentation that included a map and list of local ordinances, as well as other information. She said the proposed use would create traffic and noise issues, as crossfit facilities often extend to outside operations and tend to focus on high-intensity workouts that are louder than most fitness facilities.
"I don't think crossfit is a good fit for a residential neighborhood," she said.
Nearly a dozen neighbors opposed the use, citing traffic and noise issues. Further, others said the business isn't unique to the area, with similar operations within two miles.
By allowing the crossfit operation, commissioners were concerned it would permit all proposed crossfit operations in the area, rather than specific location.
Jane Pitchford also said she has lived in the neighborhood for 43 years, and believes a crossfit location would be a more intense use than the current operation.
Kim Russell, who said she was speaking as a resident and business owner, rather than a city official, said her goal is to make the building a viable space for the city and themselves.
"That's our livelihood, and I think there are several state laws that would allow us to continue with our livelihood," she said, suggesting a litigious outcome.
Still Russell said she didn't know they would have to come before planning commission for a request to change the operations — a claim that was met by audible laughs from some of her neighbors.
"Maybe we've been too good of neighbors," she said. "We've been very quiet and respectful... it's our money, and it's our livelihood, but we want to do this together."
Commissioners had further questions about the intensity of use from a crossfit facility and clarity on whether allowing a special use in the area would allow for similar facilities throughout the zone.
Commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to table the item pending additional information from the planning consultant and city attorney. Commissioners also wanted clarity on landscape and some other issues.
"We want to see your problem resolved, bu we don't want to dump it on the neighbors," said planning commission chair Dennis McGee. "I wouldn't want it out of my backdoor... I also don't want to approve a concept plan that we find out in the end made this use conforming in a broader residential spot, and if that's not clear at all tonight, it would be frightening to move forward without those answers."