Last updated: May 13. 2014 6:04PM - 708 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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A public hearing will be held Thursday night on a plan to expand the Municipal Service District (MSD) in Mount Airy, which would subject the properties included to extra taxation.

In all, 18 different parcels are being eyed for annexation into the MSD, a special tax district created in the 1970s to reap extra funding from downtown property owners to pay for parking facilities benefiting all.

In the years since, the district basically has included the North Main Street shopping corridor. But officials of Mount Airy Downtown Inc. — a group that oversees use of the MSD tax proceeds — believe a broader view is needed to maximize the potential of the city’s central business district.

This led to the proposed expansion, for which the hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

Certain sites on Independence Boulevard, Virginia Street and Pine Street are included in the territory considered for annexation into the MSD, along with the entire north side of Franklin Street stretching from Willow to South streets. Properties eyed for the expansion reflect a mix of industrial, residential and business zones.

Five of the 18 tracts have the same owner, Spencer’s Inc. of Mount Airy, with out-of-town banking corporations among the other affected owners along with Moody Investment Co. and additional business groups and individuals.

This week’s hearing was approved on April 3, but sufficient time had to be allotted for the property owners to be notified by certified mail.

If approved by the commissioners, the larger district would become official on July 1, when owners of the various parcels would be subject, based on the present rate, to an additional 21-cent tax per $100 of assessed valuation on top of regular property taxes.

Though affected property owners face higher taxes through the expansion, they also would receive benefits, according to Mount Airy Downtown Inc. officials.

They say common infrastructure needs exist in the district other than just parking — the original thrust of the Municipal Service District. These include more signage, to direct visitors to businesses such as restaurants. Plans also call for designing and installing a gateway sign on Main Street, and other gateways to the downtown area as a part of what officials describe as a “wayfinding package.”

Properties that are included also can benefit from special marketing and design assistance. Inclusion could help historically valuable structures have new uses rather than being razed, supporters say.

Businesses/property owners would have access to free professional design work, facade grant assistance, Main Street Solutions funding through the N.C. Department of Commerce and other benefits, based on information from the downtown group.

Redevelopment Finalists

Among other business at Thursday night’s meeting, the city commissioners are scheduled to approve members for a recently created redevelopment commission.

Seventeen people applied for the group that will identify blighted commercial areas in Mount Airy and devise redevelopment plans to make them economically viable and create jobs.

Mayor Deborah Cochran had the task of narrowing the list to five finalists to be approved by the commissioners at this week’s meeting.

Those individuals are identified in city documents as Alton Gaither, Grady “Chip” Pulliam III, Jarod Simmons, Tom Webb and Marie Wood. If approved they would be joined by ex-officio members who are city commissioners, Jon Cawley and Steve Yokeley.

Some citizens objected to the new group’s formation due to the extensive powers it will wield, including taking private property by eminent domain.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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