Hearing on signs to highlight meeting

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

New sign regulations proposed for Mount Airy will be a highlight of a Thursday night meeting of the city Board of Commissioners.

The session beginning at 7 p.m. will feature a public hearing on a portion of the Mount Airy Zoning Ordinance pertaining to signs, which was totally revamped after concerns were raised about billboards by Commissioner Shirley Brinkley in January.

Thursday night’s meeting also is to include a special presentation by Jim Troy of a sign company called Toby Outdoor, which has installed a number of billboards in area counties in both North Carolina and Virginia. Troy is scheduled to address sign ordinance amendment “concerns,” according to the meeting agenda.

Other members of the public also can offer any comments, pro or con, on the proposed changes which pertain to all types of off-premises advertising signs, in addition to billboards. That includes for-sale, political and other types.

However, billboards have drawn the most scrutiny in recent months, specifically a proliferation along the U.S. 601 business corridor which Brinkley believes are detracting from the area.

The proposed new regulations were developed through the Mount Airy Planning Board after concerns were raised at a January meeting of the city commissioners, who at that time imposed a moratorium on new billboards pending study and proposed ordinance changes.

These reflect the official objective of the commissioners “to enhance the appearance of the city by improving sign regulations for commercial development to reduce visual clutter and enhance rather than detract from the … environment.”

Included are new rules that limit the height of billboards and the distance they must be from similar signs and residential properties, which are stricter than existing regulations. Among other rules in the draft sign measure, no “double-decker,” with one located above the other, or side-by-side billboards would be allowed.

If the sign amendments are approved, with such action possibly occurring later during Thursday night’s meeting, existing billboards would not be affected, only those considered for permits in the future.

Some members of the city council, including Commissioner Steve Yokeley and Mayor David Rowe, have suggested that the changes might be overly restrictive on businesses and that they do not want to unduly hamper their right to advertise products and services.

Additional hearings

• Also Thursday night, public hearings are scheduled on issues including the awarding of the city Municipal Service District contract, to manage promotional and improvement activities in downtown Mount Airy using proceeds from a special tax levied there.

The group Mount Airy Downtown Inc. is proposing to continue in that role, although other entities with similar experience were invited to submit proposals under recent state legislation, but did not do so by a June 3 deadline. The commissioners will consider executing the contract with that organization Thursday night.

• A rezoning request for property at 120 Coolidge Ave. is the subject of another public hearing Thursday. The owner of that site, Larry Evans, is seeking to have its zoning changed from R-20 (residential) to M-1 CD (a mini-warehousing classification), to accommodate the building of such a structure there due to another storage facility owned by Evans in the area being full. The planning board has recommended the rezoning, which has drawn no opposition from neighbors.

• Also Thursday, citizens can address a request by local businessman Burke Robertson, who is seeking to allow single-family dwellings above and below ground level for any property fronting Main Street. Permission also is sought for dwellings on the ground level if these do not exceed 50 percent of the ground-floor area, are set to the rear of the structure and have access to a public right of way.

This change is aimed at allowing flexibility in developing residential-use sites in downtown Mount Airy.

Other business

Additional items on Thursday’s agenda include the consideration of contract awards by the commissioners for three separate utility projects totaling $370,887. In all three cases, Steve Tate and Son Inc. of Mount Airy submitted the low bids.

One project, with a low bid of $154,300, is for water and sewer rehabilitation work on Market Street, where lines have been in need of replacement for several years and numerous failures have occurred.

A second project, for $119,067 for water-quality improvements, will involve installing “flushing valves” in optimal locations throughout the municipal water system, along with minor upgrades in the piping of the Jones School water-storage tank.

The third, involving stormwater drainage improvements for which a $97,520 low bid was received, includes replacing a section of a failing granite box culvert and about 40 feet of associated water lines. This project is meant to protect the integrity of Factory Street and surrounding properties. Emergency repairs have been done on the box culvert and water lines, but officials say those facilities are in danger of failing again.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce


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