A draft of the long-awaited Mount Airy master plan, which has been in the works since 1989, is almost ready for public review.
Planning and Zoning Commission members intend to have their final work session on the plan on Dec. 15, before submitting the 120-page proposal to the Town Council for a 60-day review and public hearings.
"If the Town Council doesn't like it, then we'll have a lot more work sessions," said commission member Bill Teppig with a laugh.
The proposal, which updates the town's 1982 plan, changes the commission's approach to zoning, Mr. Teppig said. Rather than concentrating on lot sizes, the proposed regulations should allow for a greater diversity in housing.
"It [the former method] hasn't worked out too well," he said. "Having minimum and maximum sizes for lots forced the developer into similar-size lots and similar-size houses, and you don't get the diversity you have in the older sections with big houses and little houses."
Commission members also responded to concerns about the quality of life and preserving Mount Airy's small-town atmosphere that residents expressed at public hearings and in a survey.
The commission sought public comment throughout the revision process.
But Mr. Teppig said he found people to be frustrated with how long it has taken to complete the process.
"Everything is in the preliminary stages and very tentative, but as soon as it appears on the table, people believe it's locked in," he said.
"They become alarmed and show up to see what is going on, and they want an immediate reaction. But you cannot move rapidly on issues that are this important. Planning and zoning is very vital for a community."
However, Mr. Teppig said, the commission always appreciates comments, noting the recently formed senior citizen housing advisory board.
The group researched options for senior housing in Mount Airy and presented a report to the commission.
A public hearing on the proposed zoning changes regarding senior housing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 in the town office.
"They did a great job," said Mr. Teppig of the advisory group. "They were not combative, not violent and not antagonistic. They had done their homework and used a lot of perspective to make a logical and coherent presentation."
Overall, Mr. Teppig said, he was pleased with the commission's draft of the master plan.
"It looks at the lifestyle benefits that are here, with nature parks and a thrust of bringing the community together, rather than a bedroom community of one section isolated from another section," he said.
"Rather than saying, 'I live in one development,' we'd like people to say 'I live in Mount Airy, and it's a nice place.' "