Planning Commission OKs sketch plans for McDonald's at Longmeadow

Fast-food giant has proposed building a 3,905-square-foot restaurant at corner of Northern and Oak Hill avenues

January 13, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Planning Commission Wednesday approved sketch plans for a new McDonald's restaurant at the Longmeadow Shopping Center.

Commission members voted 6-1 in favor of the plan, with the only opposition coming from member David S. Gysberts.

Gysberts said he voted against the plan on principle.

The fast-food giant has proposed building a 3,905-square-foot restaurant in what is now a parking area at the corner of Northern and Oak Hill avenues as an outlying parcel to the shopping center.

The shopping center has struggled to keep tenants. In 2010, less than half of the available square-footage was occupied, according to the latest city shopping center study.

But Gysberts said the theory that developing outlying parcels would help make the shopping center viable again was ill-conceived.

"It's like putting lipstick on a pig," he said.

Commission Chairman Douglas S. Wright told Gysberts that voting on a marketing principle behind the plan was not within the planning panel's purview.

"You can still vote against it," he said. "I think you need to understand that it's not what we are here to do."

Gary Kilfeather, McDonald's area construction manager, said the corporation took steps to minimize the impact of the restaurant on residential neighbors.

The restaurant would replace an existing McDonald's on Northern Avenue, he said.

Stone is planned for the facade; trees will be planted to screen houses from the lights of cars in the drive-through and the trash area; and the signature neon "golden arches" will be replaced with a ground-level monument sign, he said.

City planning officials raised concerns with the plan, first brought to the city as a concept in 2009, said Steve Bockmiller, zoning administrator and development planner.

At the top of the city's list was the property's location in the 100-year floodplain and whether McDonald's took that into account with its design.

Floodplain boundaries are being redrawn, and Bockmiller suggested that McDonald's review preliminary maps to determine if the site would be affected by the change.

Commission members questioned the traffic patterns, which included two access points, one of which was restricted as an entrance only.

They also asked if there would be curbing on each side of the drive-through lane to help direct traffic, and if a traffic triangle should be raised and painted to avoid confusion.

They discussed the planning staff's suggestions that McDonald's consider eliminating one parking space to make entrance and exits to the site easier and adding a walkway between the parking lot and sidewalks along Northern Avenue. Commission members supported both suggestions.

Kilfeather said the site is "tight" but the company would look into the concerns.

The next step for McDonald's is to submit a final site plan for the property.

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