A zoning amendment approved by Mount Airy officials is opening the door for more residential occupancy downtown.
The change, implemented through a 5-0 vote Thursday night by the city Board of Commissioners, affects rules for single-family dwelling/business uses in Mount Airy’s B-1 (Central Business) and B-2 (General Business) districts.
It stems from a recent request by Burke Robertson, a local businessman, regarding property he owns at 496 N. Main St., on the corner of Hines Avenue and North Main beside First Citizens Bank.
Robertson asked that the Mount Airy Zoning Ordinance be altered to allow a residential use at that site, which he said Monday represents a bit of a unique situation.
He requested that city officials tweak existing regulations, which state that any habitable dwelling areas on Main Street under business zoning must be located above the ground-floor level, which is aimed at protecting the commercial space prevalent downtown.
Robertson asked that this rule be amended to allow single-family dwellings both above and below the ground level for any property fronting Main Street. Permission also was sought for single-family dwellings on the ground level if these do not exceed 50 percent of the ground-floor area, are set to the rear of the structure and have access from a public right of way excluding Main Street.
The businessman explained Monday that the site he owns at 496 N. Main St. now has an office on the ground floor that drops into a lower level, which forms the basis for his request.
“It’s for a property he owns,” city Planning Director Andy Goodall acknowledged concerning the change initiated by Robertson, “but it also would be something effective for the downtown district.”
Goodall said the intent of the city zoning ordinance to protect the commercial integrity of Main Street will still be fulfilled by the change, while also allowing residential uses in the rear portions of qualifying structures.
Robertson cited recent efforts by downtown supporters to encourage more residences there and indicated Monday that the zoning change is a small move in that regard.
Also Thursday night, the city commissioners approved appointments for three city advisory groups:
• Three members of the Historic Preservation Commission were reappointed to three-year terms, Mary Planer, Betty Wright and Mary Fawcett. Those terms will expire on June 30, 2019 in all three cases.
• Emily Loftis and Steve Welker were reappointed to the Mount Airy Library Board, each for a three-year term to run until June 30, 2019.
• Luke Morrison was appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment as a replacement for Chad Tidd, who no longer is eligible to serve with that group due to relocating out of Mount Airy. Morrison was approved to complete the remainder of Tidd’s term, which expires on Jan. 1, 2019.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.