City council rejects rezoning request

By Tom Joyce -

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners denied a rezoning request Thursday night to accommodate a storage facility, after concerns were raised by both neighbors and board members.

That request involved property at 120 Coolidge Ave., which is not in the city limits but lies within Mount Airy’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), a one-mile area circling the municipality where it has zoning control.

Larry Evans, the owner of the site in question, which is near Flat Rock, was seeking to have its zoning changed from R-20 (residential) to M-1 CD (a mini-warehousing classification). That would allow the building of a 4,200-square-foot facility containing storage units.

The request stemmed from another storage facility owned by Evans in the same vicinity being full.

“I feel like the community needs more storage … in that area,” Evans said during a public hearing on the request held during Thursday night’s commissioners meeting.

The Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners, earlier had recommended the rezoning. Though they were invited to attend a recent planning board meeting when the issue was discussed, no neighbors in the area showed up to offer any opposition at that time.

Evans indicated during Thursday’s public hearing that the neighborhood was on board with the request.

“The neighbors whose land touches that property, I’ve already spoken to them — they have no problem with it,” he said.

However, residents of the area who didn’t attend the planning board and were similarly notified about the commissioners meeting did see fit to show up for Thursday’s hearing to oppose the rezoning.

One was adjoining property owner Allen Combs.

“He has not spoken to me,” Combs said of Evans. Combs also said he was against the storage facility being located on Coolidge Avenue.

“I’d just rather it not be there,” he said of the area’s predominant residential character.

Combs said he feared property values would be affected as a result of the business presence, as did another hearing speaker, Brenda Reece.

She referred to “a lot of houses” being in the neighborhood, including homes of many elderly people. “We’d rather keep it residential,” Reece said.

The woman, who operates a local restaurant, also expressed concern about how traffic generated by the storage business might impact the neighbors.

“There will be an accident,” she said of potential implications from the rezoning.

“That road is so narrow there’s no way it can hold the traffic.”

When it came time to vote on the rezoning request, commissioners also expressed concerns, including the issue of spot zoning. That occurs when a parcel of land is granted a classification for a use that differs from the classification of other property in the immediate area.

In the case of Coolidge Avenue, that is residential, which seemed to be a problem for council members Thursday night even after being told that the planning board thought the storage business would be compatible there.

There are other commercial operations in the same general area, such as the granite quarry, planning department representatives said Thursday.

They also pointed out that the planning board’s thoughts were that limiting the site on Coolidge Avenue to the one use, for storage, would be in harmony with and not detrimental to the neighborhood. A vegetative buffer also was part of the plans.

“Whether compatible or not, it seems as if it would be out of place,” Commissioner Jim Armbrister said of the storage facility, citing the prevailing residential character of Coolidge Avenue.

“My reason for not supporting it,” said Commissioner Jon Cawley, “is the neighbors don’t want it (the storage business). I don’t know if the planning board heard from the neighbors.”

Those sentiments by the commissioners subsequently led to a 5-0 vote to deny the rezoning request.

Evans had no comment on the decision upon leaving the meeting.

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

By Tom Joyce

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