The Mount Airy Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously last night to give conditional approval to a Seattle couple's site plan to convert the old town firehouse into a microbrewery.
Some commission members expressed concern there might not be enough parking, but Town Planner Teresa Bamberger said the site plan addresses that issue.
Former Mount Airy residents Julie and Reid Allison III have signed a contract to buy the fire hall at 233 S. Main St. and convert it to a restaurant/brewery.
The Allisons were not at last night's meeting.
Their site plans shows 41 parking spaces; the town zoning ordinance requires 63 spaces.
But the ordinance allows businesses to use spaces in the municipal lot to meet the requirement, if the business is within a 1,000 feet of the lot, Ms. Bamberger said.
Planning Commission member William Teppig said that if the Allisons' customers are going to use the town lot, the Allisons should make sure customers, including disabled individuals, can make it safely from the lot to the restaurant. The trip includes crossing a street.
Ms. Bamberger said that might be the town's responsibility because customers of other downtown businesses also use the lot. She said she would look into the issue.
Commission member Keith Gehle said the town and all the businesses should take responsibility for safety around the municipal lot.
"We can't put an undue burden on him [Mr. Allison]," Mr. Gehle said.
If parking becomes a problem, the site plan states that the Allisons may be required to remove a self-serve carwash at the rear of the property to provide more spaces.
Mr. Allison would like to keep the carwash operating to generate income while he starts the brewery, Ms. Bamberger said.
Last month, the Mount Airy Board of Zoning Appeals voted to grant a special exception to allow the microbrewery to open. Some church members protested that the business would destroy the town's family image and promote alcohol abuse.
Brewery operations would be on the first floor of the old firehouse, the restaurant and an apartment would be on the second floor.
Last night, the commission also voted to give conditional approval to Jeffrey Hyman of Mount Airy to open an office for a mail-order computer software business in a house at 509 E. Ridgeville Blvd.
Discussion of a new post office proposed for 2.5 acres at the northwest corner of Route 27 and Park Avenue was postponed until next month's meeting because postal officials did not have the site plan ready, Ms. Bamberger said.