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Town approves zoning changes for supermarket

Chris Patterson

Thurmont officials approved two amendments to its zoning ordinances last week, making it easier for Weis Markets to build a new grocery store in town.

At a town meeting Nov. 22, Thurmont's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved changes in parking requirements and redefined requirements for construction around streams in town.

Weis officials said the changes to the zoning ordinances will make it possible to build a store behind the McDonald's at the south end of town, hopefully in 2006.

The first zoning change reduces the number of parking spaces required for freestanding commercial structures from five parking places per 1,000 square feet of the store to four spaces per 1,000 square feet.

The other zoning change redefines the requirements for how close a building may be to streams. An intermittent stream -- which usually runs only during rain -- exists at the proposed grocery store site.

Because the grocery store site's stream does not meet any of the requirements in the new ordinance, a buffer zone will not be required.

With the additional support of Frederick County Planner Jim Gugel, who was at the meeting, the board agreed both changes were warranted.

Weis attorney Mark Lewis of Herbert, Rowland and Grubic, Inc., argued for the changes because they would make it possible for the grocery chain to continue planning the store.

He said the company tracked parking uses at some of the stores during peak shopping for the Fourth of July and during the end-of-the-year holidays. There were just over two places per 1,000 square feet used at the heaviest times, according to their statistics. The new four-space minimum was derived by taking the average number of parking spaces, adding a buffer and then rounding up, Lewis said.

Mayor Martin Burns agreed parking requirements need to be adjusted. Commissioner Bill Blakeslee said Weis made a similar, but more detailed, presentation to the town's planning commission, which is why that commission recommended approval of the changes.

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