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Salem ZBA OK’s variance for physical therapy center

SALEM — A new physical therapy business at 8B Industrial Drive will help clients with spinal cord injuries.

On Tuesday night, the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance allowing Project Walk Boston to operate a training gym in the industrial zone.

Victoria Arlen of Project Walk Boston said the impetus for bringing the physical therapy business to New England came after visiting Project Walk’s headquarters in San Diego.

“There were clients who were complete quadriplegics and now they were able to walk,” said Victoria Arlen of Project Walk Boston. “These clients had been told to accept life in a wheelchair. We were so overcome by the energy and miracles at Project Walk that we came home with our calling to bring Project Walk to New England.”

Salem was chosen as the New England site because of its proximity to both the Boston and Manchester airports and because Arlen’s family has owned property in the town for the past 30 years.

“The convenience of being so close to the Boston and Manchester airports was very important for our clients who come from all over the world to receive training,” said Arlen.

When looking for a location for the business, Arlen said it needed a location that could house a studio and gym setting and provide easier parking and ADA access.

Because the current zoning ordinance requires a variance to operate a gym in an industrial zone, Arlen had to bring the request for a variance before the ZBA.

Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff noted that the need for a variance for a gym in an industrial zone is a quirk in the town’s zoning bylaws and that the issue will likely be addressed in the near future.

The business will be open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Arlen said there will typically be four full-time employees on duty along with two to three clients per hour.

“This is activity based therapy for people with spinal cord injuries,” said Arlen. “The gym is for people with disabilities. The clients work with the trainers, who get them out of their wheelchairs and get them moving.”

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