Mount Airy officials have approved a zoning change that paves the way for the construction of a Surry Arts Council building on city property.
The new multi-purpose art structure, planned on a site situated between Rockford Street and Blackmon Amphitheater, will feature a museum and statue dedicated to two local historical figures: Siamese twins Eng and Chang Bunker.
On Oct. 1, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners approved a ground-lease agreement with the Surry Arts Council, under which the council will proceed with the project on the municipal grounds. Although the city government has chipped in $300,000 for it, the multimillion-dollar building is to be funded mostly through arts group efforts.
Once finished, it will be owned and largely maintained by the city of Mount Airy and leased to the Surry Arts Council for 25 years.
Even with the lease finalized, another obstacle stood in the project’s path involving the fact that the zoning of the site in question did not permit the new arts building.
That was rectified during a meeting of the commissioners last Thursday night, when they voted unanimously to rezone it and adjoining parcels known collectively as the City of Mount Airy Municipal Campus.
Several different tracts were included in that move, which was approved after a public hearing during which no opposition was voiced to the change.
Those include the sites of the Municipal Building, Mount Airy Public Library, the amphitheater and public parking spaces, which are in areas bordering Rockford, Spring and South Main streets.
The zoning of the different locations had been a combination of R-6 (General Residential)/B-2 (General Business). They are now in one R-4 (Residential/Office) zone, which city Planning Director Andy Goodall says covers all the uses of the parcels involved.
“It just makes sense to have the whole area in one zoning district,” Goodall told the commissioners before their vote.
The planning director added that all adjacent property owners were contacted about the proposed change, and no objections were raised.
Some concerns about traffic and accessibility did surface during a late-October meeting of the Mount Airy Planning Board, an advisory group to the city council which recommended the rezoning in a 7-0 vote.
However, the planning group did suggest that an additional means of ingress/egress for the new Surry Arts Council development occur along Spring Street to mitigate potential traffic and pedestrian safety issues.
North Main rezoning
The commissioners also have OK’d a zoning request affecting property at 2007 N. Main St. near Central United Methodist Church.
That .25-acre space was zoned R-6 (General Residential) and the owner of the property, Malone Investments, LLC, on Old Springs Road, was seeking to have this changed to R-4 (Residential/Office).
A vacant office building now occupies the site, a use that doesn’t conform to the General Residential classification.
“They are looking to sell it and want to have the correct zoning for what they’re looking to sell it as,” city planner Ben Barcroft explained before the board made its decision.
Cleaning up that zoning will facilitate plans by the property owner to work with a Realtor in offering the site to a “broad audience of buyers,” according to city government documents.
No one opposed the change during a public hearing.
Barcroft pointed out that there is already a mix of residential, church and business use in areas near 2007 N. Main St. This includes a Circle K convenience store and two churches.
In other action, Commissioner Ron Niland was appointed to the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority board, as one of its two city representatives.
David Rowe had been serving in that capacity along with Commissioner Jon Cawley, both of whom were appointed in December 2018. But Rowe resigned as a mayor of Mount Airy in October, leaving his spot on the airport governing board vacant.
Niland was the logical choice as his replacement, since he serves as mayor pro tem, or vice mayor, and in the wake of Rowe’s departure for health reasons has taken on the responsibilities the mayor handled.
The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority board contains seven members, five of whom are county representatives.
During a previous meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, on Nov. 5, Dr. Hugh Sutphin was reappointed to the Mount Airy ABC Board, which oversees operations of the municipality’s lone liquor store on Starlite Road.
Sutphin’s last term had expired on Oct. 31 and he expressed interest in continuing to serve with the ABC group.
He was approved for a new three-year term to run through Oct. 31, 2023.