Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to discuss forest logging at Westwood Park

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Mount Airy officials will revisit an old “friend” tonight, when the city council is scheduled to receive details on a long-awaited logging project planned at Westwood Industrial Park.

It has been more than a year since the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last addressed the issue of cutting timber from the city-owned site, one that was the topic of numerous discussions during 2013 and 2014.

Today, during a meeting at 7 p.m., the board is to be briefed on plans for trees to finally be harvested from about a 65-acre tract in the vicinity of North Franklin Road. This is a follow-up to a 5-0 vote by the commissioners in August 2014 to launch the logging project at Westwood Industrial Park, which led to having a proposed timber sale process arranged by a state-registered forester.

That individual, John W. Overbey of Timberbrook Forestry Inc. in State Road, will make a presentation to the board tonight regarding the plans, which call for bids for the sale of the timber to be opened next Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The area to be harvested is situated at the end of Boggs Drive in the industrial park, which also borders North Franklin Road near a city water-storage tank.

Documents prepared by the forester show the sale is to be conducted on a sealed-bid, lump-sum basis for which logging companies are invited to submit proposals.

One motivation for the sale was an analysis by Brian Elam, a local member of the N.C. Forest Service, who said the municipality was losing money daily by not harvesting older trees constantly being lost from age, disease and insects.

Information prepared since by Overbey describes the timber stand involved as “excellent quality” shortleaf pines, white pines, poplars and other hardwoods and some Virginia pines. His report further specifies maples and red, white and chestnut oaks.

The total timber volume is estimated at more than 650,000 board feet.

In voting to begin the timbering project in August 2014, the city commissioners stipulated that after the trees are cut, a 200-foot buffer is to be left along property lines of adjoining homes, while a buffer of at least 100 feet will remain around two streams on the property.

Conditions of the sale, prepared by Overbey, contain steps to lessen the impact of the logging operation, including utilizing state best-management practices. The conditions also will require the removal of trash, and stabilization of disturbed areas including the sowing of grass.

Under the plans, all bids for the project are scheduled to be opened and made public at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the water tower site off North Franklin Road.

The logging operation is expected to take about two years once the timber is deeded.

Rezoning request

Among other business at tonight’s meeting, the city commissioners will consider setting a public hearing regarding the proposed rezoning of property along the 100 block of North Franklin Road.

It totals less than an acre and is owned by Bryan Martin of Fancy Gap Road.

Martin is asking for the zoning of the site to be changed from R-20 (residential) to B-4 (Highway Business).

His rezoning application states that the move is sought to accommodate the building of a garage of 40 feet by 70 feet on the property. It is in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) zone, which encompasses a one-mile area surrounding the city limits which is under municipal zoning control.

The rezoning proposal involves a general request (with no conditions) for the Highway Business classification and would permit other commercial uses similar to what is now allowed along the Pine Street corridor, according to Andy Goodall, city planner.

Plans call for the public hearing to be conducted during a commissioners meeting on Nov. 19.

The Mount Airy Planning Board voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the rezoning during a meeting on Sept. 28, when no one spoke in opposition to the move.

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

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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