The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to deny a rezoning request aimed at allowing an existing local company to establish a new headquarters.
Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co. Inc., a mechanical contractor, recently petitioned the city government to rezone a .537-acre parcel at 1326 N. Main St., the former longtime home of Inman Electric, next door to the North Main Fire Station.
In acting on the request at a meeting Thursday night, the commissioners cited concerns about possible adverse effects on the predominantly residential area involved during a lengthy discussion leading to the 5-0 decision.
The properly presently is zoned R-8 (single-family residential), which Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co. sought to have changed to R-4 CD (residential and office-conditional district) to accommodate its new headquarters including both office and storage space.
In explaining the request before a public hearing on it Thursday night, Mount Airy Planning Director Andy Goodall said 1326 N. Main St. is in a veritable no-man’s land — containing an existing commercial-type structure surrounded by a maze of homes.
Goodall explained that the site, said to be valued at between $250,000 and $300,000 — presents problems for someone wanting to replace the commercial facility with a new house, for example, which would be impractical from a cost standpoint.
“Single-family (residential) is just not going to happen on that property,” the city planner said of the site now owned by the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Foundation in Elkin. “There’s always going to be an issue about what to do with that property.”
A possible solution emerged earlier this year when Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co. eyed the North Main Street parcel for its new home base. The business, that has been in operation for about 30 years, has outgrown its present location on Oak Street.
Goodall said the Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the city commissioners, “struggled” to accommodate the rezoning request while also safeguarding neighboring residents when discussing the issue in June. This led to imposing conditions for the potential new zoning, including prohibiting outside storage and restricting truck deliveries to certain times of the day.
Neighbor opposes move
However, those stipulations were not enough to convince neighbors of the site, including Dr. Roger Kerley, who spoke in opposition to the rezoning during Thursday night’s public hearing.
Kerley, whose home on North Main is across the street and two doors down from the property eyed for rezoning, said he had noticed lots of items being stored outside the mechanical contractor’s existing base of operations. And he fears a similar scene in his neighborhood.
The local physician added that he would have no problem if the facility were limited to offices, but wouldn’t want the North Main location to have the appearance of an “industrial site.”
This would make that area a less-desirable place to live and affect property values there, according to Kerley.
“It is not appropriate for a single-family residential neighborhood,” he said of the use envisioned by Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co.
While Dr. Kerley was the only neighbor speaking against the rezoning proposal during the public hearing, city board members did not appear to need much persuading.
“My concern is there could be a lot more traffic,” Commissioner Dean Brown said of what might result, especially large trucks. “The street is really not big enough for that.”
Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said she was concerned not only about items possibly being stored outside the building, but noise the operation might cause.
“Several of us have received calls that we not rezone this property,” Brinkley said of board members.
The board’s Jim Armbrister said he was concerned about disrupting the “atmosphere” of the community.
“How would I feel if I lived next door to it?” Commissioner Jon Cawley said concerning the facility considered for the property.
Despite restrictions on deliveries and storage, Cawley said he could foresee scenarios in which a company crew returned late at night from an out-of-town job and had to reload the truck for the next morning — thus disturbing neighbors.
“It’s a nice residential area and I certainly don’t want to take away from (that).”
Cawley indicated that he also did not want to appear anti-business.
“If it was a bank headquarters…I think all of us would support it,” he said of a use other than a mechanical contractor facility. “It just doesn’t work for that neighborhood.”
“I think we need to think of the residents who are there now,” Brown agreed.
City officials seemed bothered Thursday night by the fact no one from Broz Wilmoth-Thacker & Wall Service Co. was there to answer questions and possibly mitigate concerns raised.
“I wish the developer had been here,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said. “I just can’t support it (the request) the way it is tonight.”
However, Yokeley and Armbrister said they were open to having the company re-approach the matter in some way, possibly leading to a solution that would be agreeable to everyone affected.
Commissioner Cawley said at the end of Thursday night’s meeting, right after the 5-0 decision, that he did not relish rejecting the rezoning request — but the board had to act in the best interest of the community.
“There is no joy in any of us for the last vote we took.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.