Coffeehouse At Health Club Gets Zoning Board Approval

by Tim Wood
Conversion of the Chatham Health and Swim Club to a coffeehouse cleared another hurdle last week. FILE PHOTO Conversion of the Chatham Health and Swim Club to a coffeehouse cleared another hurdle last week. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – The transition of 251 Crowell Rd. from the Chatham Health and Swim Club to a coffeehouse came one step closer to fruition last Thursday.

The zoning board of appeals voted unanimously to grant a special permit to Three Fins Coffee Roasters to convert the defunct health club into a combined coffeehouse and light manufacturing facility. The company plans to include cold brew coffee production and chocolate manufacturing in the building.

Closed since the pandemic, the health club was the subject of speculation by some in last year about the possibility of the town acquiring it as an adjunct to the council on aging. A feasibility study commissioned by the select board recommended against the idea, which was dropped.

Catherine Bieri and Ron Reddick, who own Three Fins Coffee Roasters in West Dennis, said they plan to basically gut the interior of the building and install all new heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems and plumbing. The only major changes to the exterior will be a new roof and new landscaping, they told the board.

The existing septic system, designed to accommodate the pool and health club, will be more than adequate for the new use, Reddick said.

The existing pool will be drained, the floor leveled and tables placed there. An ramp will have to be installed to meet accessibility requirements, said Building Commissioner Jay Briggs.

Given that the property is surrounded by residences, ZBA associate member Steve DeBoer expressed concern about deliveries. Bieri said the business would only receive about three deliveries a week, all during planned regular business hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The manufacturing operations will produce little waste, Reddick said, and most will be compostable, including coffee grounds from the cold brew process and husks from cocoa beans. A farm takes compostable waste from the West Dennis outlet, and he hopes to find someplace locally to accept the waste from the Chatham coffeehouse. Chair Randi Potash suggested contacting the Chatham Community Gardens just down the road off Main Street.

The business works to promote sustainability, said Bieri, including using milk delivered by an off-Cape dairy that uses glass bottles.

“We try to reduce as much plastic waste and trash as we can,” she said.

In a letter to the board, neighbors Tish and Rob Crowell expressed concern with dead trees and a fence in disrepair along the property line they share with the health club. The current owner — Reddick and Bieri are in the process of purchasing the property — was unresponsive to their concerns.

Reddick said they have met with the Crowells and will be removing the dead trees and improving landscaping along the property line as part of the overall project.

Reddick said he sees the operation as compatible with the neighborhood. From the outside, there will be little evidence of the manufacturing processes, he said.

“When we roast the cocoa beans, it smells like brownies,” he said. “So if you’re walking by, you’ll smell brownies. I see that as a plus.”

Zoning board members agreed.

“It’s good to see someone come along with a viable plan for this building,” said David Veach.

Bieri and Reddick have received site plan approval from the planning board but must still go before the historic business district commission for approval for signs and exterior changes to the building. In January they said they hoped to open the Chatham coffeehouse by the summer.