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Thrive’s permits revoked by panel

The Madera Planning Commission has voted to revoke the three conditional use permits that have allowed the gymnasium at Sunset and Orchard avenues to operate since the 1970s under several ownerships.

The present owner, Thrive Fitness, has had some 60 days to comply with conditions of the permits, after months of complaints, but has failed to do so.

Principal among these conditions was to provide adequate off-street parking so traffic from the gym’s clients would not crowd the surrounding residential neighborhood streets.

Representatives from a company calling itself Fitness Evolution appeared before the Tuesday evening meeting of the board to propose several mitigations for the parking problems, and for noise complaints.

Fitness Evolution has posted a sign on the Thrive Building, apparently with intentions of purchasing the business, but so far have not invested much, the representatives said.

Neighbors of the gym rose to tell the commission that they had heard such promises before — but none of them had been kept.

One representative from Fitness Evolution said she didn’t believe the off-street parking requirements or other requirements to limit activities at the gym could be enforced.

She also said Fitness Evolution was in negotiations with a neighboring church to rent their parking lot.

But in May, during the first hearing on whether the permits should be revoked, a representative from the church said the congregation had no interest in allowing gym customers to use its parking lot. He said gym customers had violated conditions of an earlier parking agreement, and that the church had its own off-street parking requirements to worry about.

Planning Commissioner Jim DaSilva said the gym was trying to handle about twice as many customers as it was built for. DaSilva said his family had owned the gym for many years — “as a family business” — and that its neighbors had not complained. “It was only built for about 1,500 members,” he said.

Responding to the Fitness Evolution representatives’ promises of improvements, neighborhood resident Tom Frazier expressed skepticism.

“What I just heard them say is what I’ve heard them say before,” said Frazier, a retired police officer. “That gym’s success, its growth, is our bone of contention.”

He cited trash from gym customers who park on his street, as well as noise from vehicles and sometimes car alarms that go off and take 20 minutes to stop beeping.

“It’s a danger to the neighborhood,” he said, “and it’s a danger to the students who talk to and from school past there.”

Neighbor Cynthia Hurenkamp said she had no faith in the gym’s owners to keep any agreement they might make. She reminded planning commissioners that in May, one of the conditions for perhaps giving the owners more time to take pressure off the neighborhood was to try to keep gym membership under control.

“Instead,” she said, “this was what we got.” She held up a large mailing piece advertising gym memberships for $9.95 a month.

“These were mailed all over the area,” she said.

She also said she didn’t trust Fitness Evolution to keep any agreement they might make.

“I did some research on them with the Better Business Bureau,” she said, “and they’re rated ‘F’ — which is the worst the BBB gives for how businesses treat their customers. How could you expect them to keep an agreement with the city if they treat their customers so badly?”

The vote to revoke the gym’s conditional use permits was unanimous.

The decision can be appealed to the City Council, which can overturn or sustain the planning commission decision.

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