City meeting to include rezoning hearings

By Tom Joyce -

Two public hearings are scheduled during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday night, one involving a single site on Forrest Drive and the other a “mass” of parcels.

Property in the 1300 block of Forrest Drive owned by Dr. Dean Simmons, a local dentist, is the subject of one of the hearings to be conducted during the board’s 7 p.m. meeting.

Simmons is seeking to have the zoning for the 2.53-acre parcel changed from a residential to business classification to accommodate a new 16,820-square-foot commercial (wholesale/retail) structure. The site, located near Forrest Drive’s intersection with South Franklin Road in the vicinity of Holiday Inn Express, is now vacant.

The Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners which initially fields rezoning requests and then makes recommendations to the latter, voted 3-1 to recommend denial of the request after evaluating it during a recent meeting.

Planning board members ruled that the proposed commercial use and zoning were not compatible with the predominantly residential areas surround Simmons’ property. Several neighboring property owners spoke in opposition to the rezoning during that board’s meeting.

However, the commissioners are not bound by decisions of the Mount Airy Planning Board, and voted on Nov. 2 to hold the public hearing this Thursday night.

Mass rezoning

The other public hearing scheduled then involves a proposal to rezone a large number of sites now zoned R-20 (Residential).

R-20 refers to a general residential district that traditionally has been applied to the fringe areas of Mount Airy which are less populated than the core of the city. These are more wide-open spaces where farm-related enterprises have been allowed along with both single- and multi-family homes, among other varied uses.

The R-20 zones include areas annexed by Mount Airy in the last 10 years or so, according to previous discussions among city officials.

In January, a movement was initiated by Commissioner Steve Yokeley to examine R-20 areas and update existing provisions he said are outmoded and don’t reflect the residential zoning character elsewhere in town.

That led to city planners reviewing 1,210 tax parcels that are presently within the city limits and have R-20 zoning. The Mount Airy Planning Board subsequently voted 5-0 to recommend that 951 of those parcels be rezoned.

This proposal calls for changing the classifications of 942 parcels to R-15, a district in which the primary use of land is medium-density residential purposes and public and private facilities typically associated with such districts.

“R-15 is far more restrictive than R-20,” city Planning Director Andy Goodall said during a May 4 commissioners meeting when the plans were updated.

One example of a restriction involves mobile homes now in R-20 zones, numbering from 12 to 18, which could not be replaced under the proposed rezoning, based on discussion at that meeting. In addition, the low-density residential or agricultural uses specified for R-20 zones specify are not covered by R-15.

Among areas designated for the R-15 zoning are parcels located along North Andy Griffith Parkway (West), Greenhill Road, Cross Creek Drive (North), Wards Gap Road (East), the Hollyview Forest subdivision, Welch Road and numerous others.

Another six R-20 parcels in the Knollwood Drive area would be rezoned R-8 (single-family residential) under the plan and three to B-4 (highway business), which are located at the intersection of North Andy Griffith Parkway and Fancy Gap Road.

Goodall pointed out that some flexibility would occur due to family care and day-care facilities being permitted in R-15 and R-8 zones which are not allowed in R-20 areas.

The commissioners voted 4-1 in May to have the city planning staff move forward with the rezoning of the parcels, including the public hearing process that will culminate Thursday night.

Commissioner Jon Cawley was the lone dissenter, citing concerns for freedom of choice among property owners.

However, Yokeley argued that the changes are needed to protect property owners overall and to make R-20 districts better “match the rest of the city.”

Officials have said that affected landowners were to be contacted and advised of the rezoning implications.

By Tom Joyce

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

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

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