County board nixes cabin project

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — For the third time this year, local officials have turned down a construction project over fears of how it would fit in.

On May 3, Mount Airy commissioners by a 4-1 vote denied rezoning for the Shepherd’s House, which would have allowed an expansion of the city’s only homeless shelter. Plans called for increasing the occupancy from 18 to about 50 people.

City officials said the shelter wasn’t a good fit in the historic district, even though they had no trouble approving the Blackmon Amphitheater and the Andy Griffith Museum next door in recent years.

On April 5 the Pilot Mountain commissioners by a 3-1 vote shot down a plan to bring 48 apartments to the outskirts of town at an estimated cost of $6.7 million.

Commissioner Kim Quinn, the lone yes vote, wrote down some of the reasons people spoke out against the project: sex offenders, poor people, people walking instead of driving cars, and destroying their way of life.

“My God takes care of not just the rich people but the poor people as well,” she argued.

Monday’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners was packed as folks turned out to hear about proposed increases in school and fire tax rates. Mixed in with those two public hearings was another hearing over a request to rezone property off Cook School Road between Pilot Mountain and Holly Springs.

Kim Bates, county planning director, said the 11.5 acres is zoned restricted residential now and would switch to RA-conditional — with the conditional use being that several small cabins be built on the site.

Bates noted that no one had come forward to speak against the project when the zoning board gave its approval, despite letters being sent out to the community.

Brock Bowman, of Eddie Bunn Engineering, said his firm is working on the project with an out-of-state developer. He said the land along the roadway was once zoned RA, but had been changed to residential; now he was just asking that it go back to what it originally was.

Bowman said the project would be to build 30 to 35 small cabins, about 400 square feet, for short-term rental. Additional space on the site would be set aside for three houses to be built there, from 1,200 square feet to 1,800. One of these will be occupied by a full-time manager who will oversee the property.

During the public hearing, Wade Gilley Jr., said he owns land nearby and his father is a neighboring property owner to this location.

Gilley said he is concerned about long-term purpose of property. That area is mostly hay and tobacco, he said, and he is concerned that such cabins would become low-income housing and bring more crime and meth labs into the county.

Roger Taylor, who said he lives across the road from this land, said he doesn’t have a problem with new neighbors moving in, but he does have a problem with these small rentals. He said he has seen a lot of mobile homes spring up and meth labs. If this is allowed, it’s going to hurt the community.

Chairman Eddie Harris said he is concerned that these cabins could be used for long-term residences.

Bates said that the developer presented the project as short-term rental cabins, and that’s what the conditional use in the zoning would allow. If the operator tried to do anything other than that with the cabins, then the owner would have to come back before the zoning board for a new permit.

Harris said that squeezing 35 cabins on less than 12 acres doesn’t sound like much of a scenic getaway to him.

Commissioner Van Tucker asked the two neighbors if they had raised their objections to the zoning board, which had voted unanimously in favor of the project.

Taylor said he only just learned about the project last Thursday after the planning board met. Gilley said his father may have received a letter from the county, but he hadn’t seen it.

After the discussion, the county board chose not to support the rezoning.

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.