During the Mount Airy Economic Development Commission meeting on Wednesday, topics of discussion included an ongoing conversation about new business ideas and incentives for existing shops, as well as the development of Center Street.
The extension and development of Center Street has been in Mount Airy's Master Plan for years, said Mount Airy Town Council member Bob King. The updated master plan currently under review by the Town Council describes the extension of Center Street east of Md. 27 to connect with Main Street. The plan also outlines the council's plan to extend Center Street west, which will create more roadway for a mixture of commercial and residential units as well as ease traffic through Main Street.
All new developments will be required to meet the downtown zoning ordinance and design guidelines laid out by the Mount Airy Planning Commission to retain the character of Main Street and preserve the historic properties of Mount Airy.
The master plan also calls for the rebuilding of Center Street. The road section envisioned will be designed to meet town standards, which recommends a 40-foot closed road section including new sidewalks, curbs, stormwater drains and a controlled intersection at the intersection with Main Street.
The benefits to the town are numerous, King said. An improved Center Street will provide direct access to Md. 27, provide more area to cultivate commercial properties, add to the revenue base of Mount Airy and encourage more visitors to the downtown area.
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New ideas for businesses along Main Street were brought to the commission's attention as well. Member Frank Dertzbaugh brought up the idea of creating a community shop where individuals could show their wares, mainly arts and crafts or consignments. He said he had seen such a shop while driving through a small town in Virginia.
Dertzbaugh said a community shop is a progressive idea that would not only help draw residents to the area but also could interest those from out of town.
Creating renewed interest from developers to invest in the downtown area has also been a major concern of the commission, said Economic Development Commission Chairman Andrew Williamson. One possible incentive was to create a new system to regulate business payments for hooking up to the town's water infrastructure. Each pipe a business requires costs $18,000. One business, King said, has 48 pipes. Instead of requiring the owner to pay the entirety up front, the town officials should consider allowing him to pay for each water unit as they are completed, King said. Williamson suggested capping the amount due for connection to the water infrastructure.
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Zach Peters, the newest member of the Economic Development Commission, introduced himself to the rest of the commission. He is a lifetime resident of Mount Airy, and his great-grandfather, grandfather and mother were former Town Council members. After seeing an opening on the commission, he decided to apply for the position, he said.
"I'm very happy to be here, and it's a pleasure to be on the [commission]," Peters said.
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.