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Commissioners Support Zoning Change for Possible BMFI Expansion

The proposal would make sure the non-profit Bryn Mawr Film Institute would not have to add more parking if it expanded its theater.

At the Wednesday night Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners meeting, the township's Building and Planning Director Bob Duncan presented a proposal to change the zoning requirements for the so that the non-profit organization might be able to expand in the future.

Duncan said he and Ward 10 Commissioner Scott Zelov have been meeting with BMFI about its plans to expand and add a third screen to the theater.

The film institute considered purchasing additional property for an expansion, but found that it would be “excessively expensive” and difficult to justify as a non-profit, Duncan said.

The only existing place to expand is on BMFI's existing parking lot, which has 25 spaces, Duncan explained. However, the existing zoning for Bryn Mawr Village requires that the theater provide its own parking spaces. In addition, an expansion would require one new parking space for every five new seats.

Duncan asked the Building and Planning Committee to consider a zoning change which would allow public parking spaces within 900 feet of the theater to fulfill its parking requirement. The proposal was not up for a vote on Wednesday.

Several commissioners and some residents spoke in support of the proposal, with no one opposed. Zelov said the film institute has some 6,500 paid members.

“With the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, we have an incredible anchor in Bryn Mawr,” Zelov said.

Bryn Mawr Film Institute President Juliet Goodfriend was inclined to agree.

“I can barely thank you without getting emotional,” Goodfriend said.

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