Last updated: September 04. 2014 1:56AM - 750 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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Presidential term limits are in place to prevent any one leader from becoming too powerful, and members of a new redevelopment group in Mount Airy are facing similar limitations.

The city board of commissions is scheduled to consider a measure during a meeting today at 2 p.m. at the Municipal Building which would impose term limits on the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission. That seven-member group was formed in April, amid citizen concerns about its vast powers that include being able to seize private property through eminent domain.

Under the proposal before the commissioners, who approved the group’s creation and appointed its first members in May, no one would be able to serve more than two consecutive terms.

The framework also calls for members to be appointed to staggered five-year terms, but some would not be approved for that length of time initially.

If the commissioners adopt the system during this afternoon’s session, the term of Alton Gaither, for example, will expire on Aug. 30, 2015. Jarod Simmons’ term would end on Aug. 30, 2016, Tom Webb’s term would expire on Aug. 30, 2017, Marie Wood’s on Aug. 30, 2018 and that of Chip Pulliam, Aug. 30, 2019.

The redevelopment commission also includes two council members, Steve Yokeley and Jon Cawley, whose involvement was not part of the original plans for the group. After citizens expressed concern about the commission not having accountability for its actions at the ballot box, the councilmen were added to address that issue. No term limits are specified for the council members on the commission.

Redevelopment commission members have been holding meetings since July 28, with one session last week including a tour of the former Spencer’s Inc. properties downtown.

Concern for the future of that site, which the city government bought in May, was the main motivating factor for creating the commission, which will devise a redevelopment plan aimed at making it economically viable again.

The commission has included the Spencer’s properties in a proposed blighted-area designation, a requirement before such a plan can be implemented.

Such groups have broader abilities to expedite redevelopment projects than an elected body possesses, such as being able to invest in private property.

In addition to seizing blighted commercial sites through the power of eminent domain, the commission can clear property by razing existing buildings; install or construct site improvements; enter into contracts for construction, demolition, moving of structures and repair work; and implement programs of compulsory repair and rehabilitation using minimum building codes.

Interstates Agreement

Also during their first-Thursday meeting today, the Mount Airy commissioners could take action on an interlocal agreement with Surry County designed to extend municipal sewer service along N.C. 89 west of town to interstates 77 and 74.

This could be one of the last procedural steps required to actually start putting lines into the ground for a project that has been years in the making.

Representatives of both the city and county governments, including elected officials and the managers and attorneys for each, met last week to hammer out final details on the agreement for the nearly $5 million project.

They discussed budget issues, tap-on procedures for customers, the future operation of a water system already in place in the same area and other fine points regarding the sewer expansion to the Interstates District.

In addition to a cluster of businesses in the interstates area, including some needing the service to expand, the sewer project will benefit North Surry High and Gentry Middle schools.

Mount Airy has committed $1 million to the expansion.

Other Business

Also today, the board will:

• Make an appointment to the Mount Airy Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in response to the death on Aug. 6 of its longtime chairman, J.D. Bartley. Tommy Brannock is slated to be approved as a new member of the ABC board, to serve out Bartley’s unexpired term ending on March 7, 2015, with an existing member, J.T. Palmer, to assume the chairmanship.

• Vote to dedicate a new downtown mini-park at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets in memory of Carlos Warren Jones. Jones died in World War II, but had worked in downtown Mount Airy and lived part-time at the Blue Ridge Hotel on that corner as a youth. Jones’ boyhood friend, Perry Robertson, has made a substantial donation in Jones’ honor to the project, which incorporates some of the hotel’s design features.

• Conduct a public forum during which citizens may speak on any municipal government topic.

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

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