Redevelopment plans near draft stage

Group changes meeting schedule

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

As a revitalization plan for a blighted area in Mount Airy is being developed, the group guiding that effort has changed its meeting schedule to an evening time.

The Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission now will be gathering at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month, to go into effect for the next meeting on Sept. 9.

Its sessions are held in the downstairs conference room of the Municipal Building, which are geared toward finding new uses for the former Spencer’s Inc. site downtown, now city government-owned. That goal involves improving conditions in the same general area — including private property — which was declared blighted by the Mount Airy Planning Board during the spring.

Meetings have been held at 11 a.m. monthly, but redevelopment commission members decided at one this past Wednesday morning to shift to the later schedule.

“I would like an evening meeting,” Jarod Simmons, one member, agreed. Simmons, who is associated with a local construction firm, said this would reflect the schedules of other city groups including the planning board.

After City Attorney Hugh Campbell said making such a change posed no problem with the redevelopment commission’s bylaws, the members agreed to implement the new schedule.

This comes on the heels of commission Vice Chairman Chip Pulliam expressing a desire to get property owners in the affected area more engaged in the revitalization effort. There has been some anxiety over the group’s work locally, chiefly surrounding its power to seize property by eminent domain in the name of redevelopment and the public purpose involved.

Plan progressing

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, it was noted that affected parties might soon have something to sink their teeth into regarding the details of the redevelopment plan. It will affect the 22 Spencer’s buildings on a 10-acre site, mainly in the Willow Street area, as well as commercial properties on surrounding streets such as Franklin, South and West Pine.

Twenty-four separate property parcels are included in the area designated as blighted.

Tom Webb, a local businessman who is on the seven-member commission, has been working on the plan and said it is close to draft stage.

Webb also said progress has been made on an engineering study the commission voted to fund during its July meeting at a cost not to exceed $3,000. This is coming from a $30,000 appropriation in the 2015-2016 city budget for the redevelopment commission, in which $23,500 is earmarked for legal, mapping and engineering services.

The engineering services under way by a private firm, The Lane Group, are resulting in maps being prepared showing street layouts, water and sewer facilities and other conditions existing in the blighted area.

A requirement of the redevelopment process is to show not only the existing situation but the end results the commission hopes to accomplish and how problems identified can be fixed.

This will lead to a statement being prepared for the estimated cost and method of financing redevelopment.

After the redevelopment plan is completed, a public hearing will be held to allow citizens to weigh in on what’s proposed.

No timetable has been announced for this.

Private properties

A certification document for what is being called “The Westside Non-Residential Redevelopment Area” — which covers nearly 50 pages — lists detailed descriptions of properties in the blighted community, based on inspections by a Greensboro firm.

Examples include:

• Classifying King’s Garage on West Pine Street as being in a “deteriorating” condition, the same label given to buildings that are part of the Spencer’s Inc. complex. The King’s Garage site also is described in the report as having “a faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility or usefulness.”

• The description of the Amazing Grace church and Cooke Flooring sites, which occupy the same location on West Pine Street, as being in a dilapidated, deteriorating and obsolescent state that “has seriously adverse effects on surrounding development.”

• Identical descriptions for the former Mittman body shop structure on South South Street, and the Simmons Building on North South Street.

• The classifying of a structure identified as the Photo Fast Print site on North South Street as “deteriorating.”

Developers interested

It was announced during Wednesday’s meeting that the availability of the former Spencer’s property is attracting interest other than from those considering using a portion of it for market-rate rental housing, as reported previously.

“There have been several contacts from developers,” said commission Chairman Steve Yokeley, who also is a city councilman.

Yokeley suggested that the group, at its September meeting, might need to discuss ways to subdivide the massive Spencer’s holdings.

This is because developers are not interested in the entire parcel, just portions they can manage, he explained.

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

Group changes meeting schedule

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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