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Changes to Thurmont Zoning Ordinance discussed

Sarah Harrington

(3/28) During the March 8th Thurmont town council meeting, the Mayor and Commissioners reviewed proposed changes to the comprehensive zoning ordinance.

Town Planner, Chris Jukubiak, stated that the Planning and Zoning Commission has been working on making updates to the Zoning Ordinance over the past year. These changes include incorporating many additions and amendments that have been made over the years, to modernize certain sections of the ordinance, to improve the site plan review and improve the ordinance. The work on the ordinance was completed in January and it was recommended that the document be reviewed and adopted by the Mayor and Commissioners.

Jukubiak assured the Mayor and Commissioners in the beginning of the workshop that the changes in the draft revision to the ordnance would not affect the zoning of any of the properties in the town. He went on to say that the there were about 12 to 14 changes of any subtenant nature to the ordnance, the rest of the improvements centered on the organization of the ordinance

A change that struck up conversation pertained to annexation. In the proposed updated ordinance, it requires the Planning and Zoning Commission to evaluate the cost impact of any proposed annexation on the town’s fiscal condition and budget.

Commissioner Martin Burns questioned whether the impact of annexations to the town’s fiscal condition and budget fell under the Committee’s jurisdiction. Mayor John Kinnaird however stated that he believes that it is within the means of the Commission to discuss the annexations. He noted that having this information would allow town leaders to make decisions regarding the permission of annexations.

Mayor Kinnaird noted for example, that if the town accepted an annexation with a 400-unit development, the town would be required to hire additional workers to maintain the streets and additional usage at the water treatment plant.

Randy Cubbedge, Chairman of Thurmont’s Planning and Zoning Commission opposed the idea of requiring the Commission to consider the financial impact of a development on a proposed annexation. Cubbedge argued that this was outside the purview of the body.

Town planner Chris Jukubiak, however, disagreed. According to Jukubaik, it is not unusual for a Planning and Zoning Committees to consider fiscal impact studies on the major development.

The commissioners reviewed the changes and listened as Burns proposed a few changes to the updates. The Board of Commissioners agreed that the changes proposed by Burns would be passed onto Jukubiak and applied to the final update of the ordinance. The draft Zoning Ordinance is scheduled to be discussed again at the March 29 Town meeting. If adopted by the Mayor and Commissioners that evening, the new Zoning Ordinance would go into effect on April 5.

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