Issues surrounding public restrooms have been a hot topic in North Carolina this year, and that has also been the case recently in Mount Airy — but for a much different reason.
Support has surfaced for adding some kind of public restroom facility to serve downtown visitors on the northern, or upper end of North Main Street. This would complement an existing rest area in the southern section of that street across from Snappy Lunch.
Those restrooms at 112 N. Main St., located in a space that also includes tables and chairs, have been well-received by both the public and business owners in the central business district since opening about 10 years ago. In 2011, that site was named Jack A. Loftis Plaza in honor of the former mayor who played a key role in the development of the rest area.
Now public restroom facilities are sought for the northern portion of the central business district — and unlike the state’s so-called bathroom bill, the proposal has not drawn any controversy.
The idea emerged from a local citizen at the last meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on Aug. 4.
During a public forum portion of the session when citizens could speak on any city government topic, Paul Madren of Laurel Street lamented the lack of public restrooms on the upper end of North Main.
Madren, who volunteers at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, said those facilities could greatly benefit entities such as the museum at times when a busload of visitors arrives.
He asked city officials to consider building public restrooms in that part of the downtown.
And Madren’s suggestion drew prompt support from one member of the city council.
“That’s something I’ve heard about for years,” said Commissioner Jim Armbrister, a retired Mount Airy police lieutenant who was a community/bike officer and patrolled the downtown section during his tenure.
“I think public restrooms in that area of North Main Street are very well-needed,” Armbrister added.
At this point, the possible location of the facilities is a question mark.
“The first thing people think about is the parking lot beside the winery,” Armbrister said Monday of a site adjoining Old North State Winery.
But he said additional research needs to be done, and suggested that there could be a better location.
“I honestly think down there on Virginia Street,” Armbrister said, which would be accessible to downtown businesses but slightly off the beaten path so as not to interfere with their operations.
“You want to maintain a retail atmosphere and a casual atmosphere on Main Street,” he explained. “You would not want to take up any quality retail space or future retail space.”
Armbrister mentioned that both the southern and northern ends of the central business district are popular among visitors, something the city needs to maintain with the help of proper accommodations.
“So you need facilities.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.