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Proposed regional library branch in trouble due to wetland issues

Chris Patterson

(11/25/2004) The Town of Thurmont's leaders learned this week that they are facing a hitch in plans for the proposed regional library branch there due to the discovery of extensive wetlands at the building site that may make it difficult to build the library.

The town has planned a 25,000-square-foot branch of Frederick County Public Libraries for a town-owned site on East Moser Road. Original plans for the site included a new town hall, police department and the Department of Public Works to also be located at the site. Plans for those buildings have been put on hold due to financial reasons, but the library planning has been going on since the summer of 2001.

Thurmont town leaders, residents and library branch Manager Erin Dingle lobbied Frederick County officials to bring the regional library to Thurmont and keep the planned 2006 construction date on schedule when the county was making other budget cuts and moving projects back. Building the library in Thurmont is considered urgent because the town's library is extremely small. Located in a former church downtown, it comprises less than 1,000 square feet of space.

Mayor Martin Burns said the town was supposed to hear from the library's planning team on the status of the library at Tuesday's town meeting, but the presentation was cancelled. Questions were raised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment during a meeting about where wetlands are located on the site, he said.

Don Harper, project manager for the Frederick County Department of Public Works, said the study on the wetlands is part of a regular process in any construction planning.

In recent days, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment met with the library planning team about how to locate wetlands at the building site and minimize impact on them.

Wetlands are protected areas and may not be disturbed except in rare circumstances. If the wetlands are occupying the area where the building might be built, the planning team may have to relocate the building on another part of the site or seek an exception from the state.

Mayor Burns said Harper notified him via e-mail that the wetlands appear more extensive than originally thought. In fact, Burns said, the entire library site may be considered wetlands.

Burns said Harper's e-mail suggested that the town be prepared to write a letter justifying why the library would need to be located on that site and explain all work the town has done to consider other sites.

The town acquired the Moser Road property to build town offices and donated a portion of the site to the county for the library so construction could move forward more quickly. There are no plans to purchase another property for the library.

Harper said the library is still moving forward to a completion date in 2006, but wetlands tests must be completed first to determine the next step.

Harper said fieldwork on the site was completed last week. It will take some time to review and evaluate the findings before any recommendations can be made about what, if anything, needs to be changed such as re-positioning the building, he said.

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