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When MXD is not MXD

Updated: Mar 19




An Assessment of the Beck Preconcept Plan


It has been said by many that the coming weeks will be pivotal for Mt Airy. A Pre- concept Plan for the Beck property, a property that is zoned MXD, will soon come before the Mt Airy Planning Commission (PC) followed by the Town Council (TC). The results of these meetings could change the look and feel of the town in perpetuity, that means forever. So it is vital to get it right. 


This paper will highlight the essential aspects of MXD zoning, suggest how to evaluate the Beck Pre-concept Plan, provide an evaluation of the plan, and explain next steps from now through PC and TC actions and beyond.


What is MXD


Mixed Use Development (MXD) zoning is a relatively new zoning category that allows a high degree of flexibility in land development. Although the concept has been around for centuries, it has recently become more formalized in the United States. The primary goals of MXD are to permit land design and development to occur in cities, towns and urban areas that provide functional integration of key components such as commercial, residential, institutional, entertainment, parks and recreation, safe walkability, and various types of open spaces. MXD projects are to be thoughtfully, purposely, and creatively designed to integrate the key components based on ordinances, and the specific needs and desires of the city, town or urban area. This is different from traditional zoning that inevitably results in separating the components where, for example, there would be zoning for commercial districts and residential districts with little or no integration. This is significant. MXD calls for integration of the components.  



How MXD Came to Mt Airy 


Several years ago a developer (not the current developer) aggressively convinced key persons in government that MXD zoning was needed to develop the Beck property. Please see a full account of the chain of events that occurred over time by clicking on  the following link: 



It is quite a story. Some suggested a novel could be written about it, as one can imagine the intrigue, greed, and coercion that could have taken place. Nevertheless, necessary ordinances were hastily crafted and approved. A citizen group formed in April of 2022, Citizens Against Mt AIry Overdevelopment (CAMO), called for change to the MXD ordinances and other things and began efforts to support new candidates for Town Council for the then coming election in May 2023. After the Mt Airy election of May 2023, new Town Council members were elected and the current Mayor made new Planning Commission appointments. Since the election, corrections to the MXD ordinances and other land development ordinances have been accomplished. Also during this time, a new developer has taken over the Beck Property project and has submitted the current Pre-concept Plan that the PC and TC are reviewing as well as Town citizens.  



How to Evaluate the Beck Pre-concept Plan and 

My Assessment  


There is no doubt an infinite number of ways to develop a Pre-concept Plan as well as evaluating a plan. The PC will evaluate the plan based primarily on the Town ordinances related to MXD. The TC will have their method but likely will also include the Town code as well as Town needs. For this paper, I have decided on a simpler method for evaluating the pre-concept plan, that is, by using the purposes of MXD as described in ‘What Is Mxd’ above with some modification to add the Town Code and meeting APFO requirements. The following questions form the basis of the evaluation followed by  simple scoring of each question. 


Here are directions for completing the table below: 


Give each question a score of 0 to 10 points followed by a brief justification for the score. Add up the total points. Pass is 80 total points. The plan fails automatically if questions 9 or10 fail.


I have completed the table with my assessment as you can see below. As you can see I have given the current Preconcept Plan a failing score. In fact I don’t see how this Pre-Concept Plan is representative of an MXD development. It is instead as the title states ‘When MXD is not MXD’




Item #

Assessment Item

Score

0-10


Rationale

1.

Does the plan satisfy the Functional Integration vs Separation?

0

There is no integration of commercial and residential. They are in effect separate districts.

2.

Does the plan satisfy the Commercial aspect of MXD?

0

Same as above.

3.

Does the plan satisfy the Residential aspect of MXD?

0

Does the plan satisfy Institutional aspect of MXD?

4.

Does the plan satisfy Institutional aspect of MXD?

5

There is a building for government offices. But no schools, community orgs…

5.

Does the plan satisfy the entertainment aspect of MXD?

0

Nothing allocated for entertainment.

6.

Does the plan satisfy the parks and recreation (including sports fields) aspect of MXD?

5

There are allocations for play areas and a sports field, but the plan is not integrated. Too scattered.

7.

Does the plan satisfy the safe walkability aspect of MXD

3

WIthin the E&W sides of the property there are walking trails. However on the E side it appears the trails go nowhere. And to think people can walk safely across Rte 27 is absurd.

8.

Does the plan  satisfy the various types of open spaces (there are a variety of types of open spaces, i.e., Green space, open space, free space) aspect of MXD?

4

MXD envisions spaces for gathering, entertainment, sports, walking, sitting for enjoying nature. There is no plan for such things.

9.

Does the plan meet the Mt Airy Code for MXD?

5

Most of the technical (quantitative) aspects of the code are met. But is lacking in the qualitative requirements.

10.

Does the plan meet Mt Airy APFO requirements?

3

Inadequate for schools upon completion of the project, Police, and maybe water, and not enough proper parks and open space are provided. No integrated plan.

Totals


26

The plan fails.


Next Steps


This is what will happen over the next couple of months. The PC will review the Beck Pre-concept Plan at their meeting on March 25. After the review and possibly at this meeting, the PC could recommend to the TC one of three things: have a continuance of the workshop, send the Pre-concept Plan to the TC to approve the plan, or send the Pre-Concept Plan to the TC to deny the plan. Assuming there will be no continuance of the workshop, at the next TC meeting, either in April or May, the TC will discuss the plan and vote yay or nay. If yay, the Beck project will move to the next step of the process, which is the concept/pattern book step. From then on, very little can be done to make changes to the project. If nay, the project should go back to develop a Pre-concept Plan step. A nay vote would be best so that a real MXD plan can be generated.    


It is vitally important to communicate your results of your assessment to the Town government, meaning the PC and TC. This can be done through written communication, but even better, at the meetings where this plan will be discussed. Time will be given to you at these meetings to address your concerns and issues. Meeting dates and times can be viewed on the Town website. I will be there. I hope to see you there as well. 


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