Hearing on zoning issues is Thursday

By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

A public hearing is scheduled this week on a proposed city zoning change that effectively would allow microbreweries in additional areas of Mount Airy than are now permitted.

That possible move is among several miscellaneous amendments eyed for the Mount Airy Code of Ordinances, which will be the subject of a public hearing Thursday. It will be held during a 7 p.m. meeting of the city Board of Commissioners.

Citizens will have a chance to weigh in on a change that reflects a growing industry in recent years, that of microbreweries or craft breweries. These generally refer to new, small operations that are independent of large beer companies and market their own brands.

Under present zoning rules in Mount Airy, beverages are classified under a manufacturing and industrial use category for B-2 (General Business) and M-1 (Industrial) zones. Categories also exist for wineries/restaurants/tasting rooms and restaurants (non-drive-through).

The proposed amendment to the rules would create a microbrewery/restaurant category whereby those operations could exist in Mount Airy’s B-1 (Central Business), B-2 General Business, B-4 (Highway Business) and M-1 (Industrial) zones.

Microbreweries would not be allowed in B-3 (Neighborhood Business) and B-5 (Medical Business) zones, under an altered table of uses.

City Planning Director Andy Goodall has said that the changes proposed — which require a public hearing in order to be implemented — would make it easier for both business operators and staffs to understand where microbreweries can be located.

Similar changes in wording were incorporated in earlier years to accommodate the growth of wineries and wine-tasting rooms.

Two microbreweries are in the works in the city, Thirsty Fish on Market Street and Creek Bottom at the former Prime Sirloin location on Rockford Street, according to Goodall.

In September, Elkin hosted its inaugural Brew Fest with 15 microbreweries bringing samples of their beverages. Two of the breweries are based in this area: Skull Camp Brewery and Angry Troll.

Other possible changes

Also to be covered during Thursday night’s hearing are other proposed amendments to Mount Airy zoning regulations, including language pertaining to temporary signs, the discontinuance of non-conforming signs and electronic changeable copy signs.

This would include minor changes to a set of new sign regulations adopted by the commissioners in July, to address some standards city planners think need to be relaxed. This is based on their experiences since July and feedback from the public.

• Included is one plan to discontinue a permit requirement for certain temporary signs, including Type 2 freestanding signs, such as banners for special events, and wall-mounted temporary signs.

• Another change addresses signs on property where an occupancy or use has been discontinued. The proposed amendment would require that on locations where the discontinuation has spanned at least 180 days, non-conforming signs would be removed, replaced or otherwise brought into compliance with present rules.

The existing regulations specify 90 consecutive days.

• Another change would allow a permit for one temporary sign per street frontage at a site, now limited to one sign.

• Also proposed is an amendment to increase the maximum display area of portable changeable-copy signs from 24 square-feet to 32 square-feet. Portable sign messages also could displayed for up to 30 consecutive calendar days rather than the present seven days.

In addition, electronic changeable copy displays also could be shown continuously for a shorter time that the 30 seconds now specified, with language also added saying these signs could not be illuminated during late-night to early morning hours.

The Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners, recently voted 7-0 to recommend the approval of the zoning amendments.

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

By Tom Joyce


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