WALLINGFORD — The Planning & Zoning Commission will continue its discussions of a zoning change in the Town Center District that would permit a wellness center to be operated on the ground floor, street-facing side of the historic former bank building at 100 Center St.
The commission, after another hearing on the requested change Wednesday night, voted to continue the discussion to its November meeting.
North Branford-based attorney Mark Bergamo represented Tracy Malton, a chiropractor and the owner of the property.
Malton told the commission the zone change would “increase the vitality” of downtown Wallingford.
“We want to enhance the downtown area,” Malton said, noting her existing chiropractic practice attracts clients from out-of-town. Those clients, she said, may visit businesses near the proposed wellness center while waiting for services including nutrition, chiropractic and physical therapy.
“Those people would not be coming to Wallingford if it wasn’t for what we’re doing,” she said.
Several people, who stated they are clients of Malton’s, spoke in support of the change, citing different physical hardships that have made it difficult to access a second-floor chiropractic office.
Commission members spoke favorably about the concept of a wellness center, but did not seem to back a general change in regulations that would allow first-floor, street facing medical offices to be permitted around the Town Center District.
Commission chairman Jim Seichter told Malton he would not support the change.
“What I can support is a well-designed wellness center and have that be allowed on the first floor,” Seichter said. He recommended Bergamo and town attorneys collaborate on language that would accommodate such a center.
Fellow commission member James Fitzsimmons agreed, saying he too is in favor of a wellness center.
“I think we could work on this and come up with a potentially separate definition,” he said.
The discussion included an earlier back-and-forth exchange between Fitzsimmons, Malton and Bergamo. Fitzsimmons said while he supports Malton’s proposal, because it involves a regulation change he needs “some more information.”
Malton reiterated her belief that her proposal would help bring more people downtown. She noted, other businesses, like retail, are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and may not be able to bounce back. Meanwhile demographics are changing.
“Our population is aging and they have more and more demand for medical and wellness,” Malton said. “It has to be on the ground floor.”
James Hine, an alternate member of the commission, said he believed the group was getting caught up in the fact Malton, the applicant, provides chiropractic services and “we’re looking at it as a purely medical business.”
“That I don’t think is what is being proposed here and I think that if we can get to a clearer definition of a wellness center you will have something. I would really hate to see this business and in particular this application be denied simply because we’re focusing on chiropractic services,” Hine said.