Rezoning approved for city parks

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

The playing field is now level for parks and other outdoor recreation facilities in the city of Mount Airy, which have each been rezoned to the same classification.

That action came during a meeting of the city Board of Commissioners Thursday night, when Planning Director Andy Goodall detailed a mixed bag of existing zoning designations for five parks and athletic fields. Some of those facilities were zoned for industrial use, while others had residential classifications.

Riverside Park was zoned M-1 (industrial) with the same true of Westwood Park. Tharrington School Park was in both R-6 (general residential) and R-8 (single-family residential) zones, with H.B. Rowe Environmental Park zoned R-8 and Graham Field, R-6.

The commissioners approved unanimously a planning board recommendation for all five sites to be rezoned B-3 CD (a neighborhood business district allowing conditional uses). This includes use as public parks and by mobile food vendors during games and other events.

Along with cleaning up the zoning maps and creating uniformity among the recreational facilities, Goodall said the rezoning was a practical move from the standpoint of those vendors.

In March, the commissioners had voted to expand the areas where vehicle-mounted food units, sidewalk carts or street-based food trucks could offer products. That included all industrial and business zones in town — but not residential.

Goodall pointed out Thursday night that this meant an ice cream truck, for example, could operate at Riverside or Westwood parks, but not Graham Field or Tharrington School Park.

Vendors must obtain permission to sell items at the facilities, under the action in March.

The city planner said the rezoning process wasn’t as cut-and-dried as one might think.

“It was not that simple, and I didn’t know this myself, but not all parks are owned by the city,” Goodall said.

For example, Graham Field is owned by Surry County and the Tharrington facility by the Mount Airy Board of Education, which meant permission had to be obtained from those entities for the rezoning.

No one spoke against the move during a public hearing on the issue earlier at Thursday night’s meeting.

Water-sewer plan OK’d

Also, the city commissioners voted 5-0 to approve an updated 20-year plan for municipal water-sewer facility needs.

The motivation behind this involves Mount Airy’s seeking of $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to replace aging water and sewer lines in the Maple Street-Merritt Street area. This is a priority for city officials, given that lines in that section largely date to the 1930s and are in danger of failing.

An initial grant application filed in 2015 to fund that project was denied.

“We didn’t focus enough, apparently, on the rehabilitation work,” Public Works Director Jeff Boyles said at Thursday night’s meeting in explaining the denial.

Boyles said this led to updating the 20-year plan to stress that rehabilitation of existing utility lines is a priority for Mount Airy.

And having that included in the context of the long-range plan is expected to improve the chances this year’s application for Community Development Block Grant funding will be successful, officials believe.

“This one is a winner?” Mayor David Rowe asked Thursday night.

“I hope so,” replied city Community Development Coordinator Martin Collins, who is involved in the grant process.

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

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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