Boys & Girls Club zoning hurdle will be eliminated with gym idea

LACONIA — The Lakes Region Boys & Girls Club, which recently entered a purchase and sales agreement to acquire St. James Episcopal Church at 876 North Main Street, has decided against converting part of the building to a gymnasium.
Walter Flinn. chairman of the facilities committee, said yesterday that the sanctuary is "not long enough, wide enough or high enough" to accommodate a regulation basketball court and "the room is too good to mess around with. It is a very attractive room and there is no point to changing that." Instead, an all-purpose floor will be installed and the room used as a multi-purpose room for a variety of activities. Flinn said that there is space for basketball outside the building.
Earlier, when the club considered constructing a new facility on a vacant lot at Davis Place, a gymnasium was to be the centerpiece of the 14,000-square-foot building.
The change of plans promises to ease the club's path through the planning process. Planning Director Shanna Saunders found that the property lies in two zoning districts, the Residential Apartment district to the east and the Residential Single-Family district to the west.
After meeting with Steven Smith of Steven Smith and Associates, representing the club, Saunders advised him that when the club's plans included a gymnasium, she classified it as a  "recreational facility," which is not a permitted use in either of the two zones and would have required a variance. However, without the gymnasium and emphasis on athletics, she considers it a day care center, which, with a conditional use permit (CUP), is permitted in both districts.
The club has yet to present detailed plans for the property to the Planning Department.