Last updated: April 15. 2014 5:00PM - 622 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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Citizens have a chance to weigh in on proposed zoning changes in Mount Airy — affecting cell towers, mobile homes and other issues involving land uses — during a public hearing Thursday night.

The hearing is scheduled during a 7 p.m. meeting of the city board of commissioners, which also will include the unveiling of a new logo for Mount Airy’s curbside recycling program and recognition of graduates of the latest Citizens Police Academy.

Zoning Amendments

Five different changes are being proposed in the city’s zoning laws, resulting from recent efforts by planning department staff members to remedy discrepancies in the regulations governing various facilities.

• One involves cell phone towers, which now may be located no closer than 500 feet from any existing dwelling, unless the dwellings is on the same parcel of land as the tower. Under the change, a cell tower could be placed near a home at a distance no closer than the height of the tower, plus 50 feet.

Typically, cell towers can be about 200 feet tall, which under the amendment could be placed within 250 feet of a home rather than 500 feet.

• The public hearing also will address provisions regarding the replacement of single-wide mobile homes in R-20 (general residential) zoning districts in extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) areas. Those areas are just outside the city limits but still within municipal zoning control. The changes are needed to eliminate a present illegal situation with zoning regulations for mobile homes being applied differently in R-20 districts than inside the city.

For example, changes proposed in the wording of the ordinance state that existing single-wide mobile homes on a conforming individual lot or in a mobile home park/subdivision could be replaced with Class B mobile home that meets city criteria. The proposed amendment also specifies that an existing mobile home could be replaced with another manufactured unit, but language allowing a house to be replaced in this manner is removed.

• City planners further recommend that regulations for constructing parking lots be streamlined from present rules considered too subjective. Amended language concerns the surfacing of new parking lots, such as for a company, specifying that all required parking and vehicular traffic surfaces shall be graded, properly drained and maintained with asphalt or similar material. The existing regulation is open-ended, saying that such surfacing will be done “if required,” rather being a definite standard.

• The proposed exempting of “ghost signs” from a zoning category addressing signs not requiring a permit also will be a subject for the public hearing. A ghost sign is one that exists on an exterior building wall, which has been weathered and faded to the extent it has lost its original brightness of color and visibility.

In some cases, those signs can be restored into murals, which the zoning change would better allow.

• Other amendments to be addressed at the public hearing proposed clarifying when variances — or relief for specific properties from the strict letter of zoning laws — can be applied to hardship cases. These state that variances will be given in instances where “unnecessary hardships” result from strict application of the zoning ordinance or from conditions that are peculiar to a property, such as topography, location or size.

Hardships resulting from personal circumstances will not be the basis for approving a variance, under the proposed changes. New language also states that no change in permitted uses for a site may be authorized by a variance, although “appropriate conditions” can be imposed.

Recycling Logo

In other business at Thursday night’s meeting, the design for a logo to help promote curbside recycling in Mount Airy will be unveiled.

Students in schools throughout the city were given the opportunity to develop proposed logos and slogans as part of an overall initiative to achieve greater visibility of the curbside program, which began in 2012.

That initiative is aimed at increasing recycling by the general public, with the example set by young people considered a key in that regard.

Police Academy

A graduation program also will be held Thursday in the wake of the 14th-annual Citizens Police Academy. It involves a series of classes to provide local residents a behind-the-scenes look at city law enforcement operations, which began in January and recently concluded.

The latest class contained 24 members. They will receive a diploma Thursday night and also will have a chance to comment on their experiences.

Also on the agenda are:

• A public forum during which citizens may speak on any municipal government topic;

• The appointment of a new member for the city Retirement Community Designation Committee;

• A closed session by city officials under the attorney-client privilege of the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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