Center group sets sights on site

But organizers need money, zoning exception

December 15, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

MOUNT AIRY - By now, organizers hoping to start a community center have learned not to get their hopes up too high while searching for a location.

Several times in the past year, members of Mount Airy Community Center Inc. thought they had found a location, only to see each fall through.

Now, however, optimism is on the rise again for the group of teens, assisted by adults, working to establish the center. The teens, who have conducted a number of events over the past several months to raise seed money, are coming in on a vacant building near the corner of Ridge and Park avenues.

The 3,600-square-foot building is close to the construction site of the new library and senior center complex. The community center is part of a recently proposed plan that includes high-density housing, open space and a day-care center, among other features, on about 30 acres.

Yet much needs to be done before the organizers can call the building home, said Barbara Schifter MACCI president.

To establish a center in the building, she said the group needs special zoning exception because the parcel is zoned residential. The group made progress on that front recently when the town Planning commission voted to recommend approval of the exception.

Now the request goes to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which will consider the matter and take public comment at a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.

"We saw that as a tremendous boost," Schifter said of the Planning Commission's recommendation.

The building would need between $20,000 and $50,000 in renovations - mostly upgrading bathrooms and heating - to make it ready for use as a community center.

Schifter's group has had discussions with First National Bank about a loan to pay for the renovation work. The owner of the building, developer Michael Burman of Wildwood Park Inc., has agreed to lease it to the group for a nominal fee, she said.

Neither Schifter nor town administrators know the age of the wood-frame building, but Schifter said it dates to at least 1940.

The building was constructed for the town's Fire Department as an activity hall, where dances and other events were run years ago. Dances are among the types of activities center organizers want to feature.

"People who've been around a long time recall going to dances there," Schifter said.

Organizers envision a community center that would offer a variety of activities for residents of all ages.

To gauge interest in the concept, the group has had four wellattended teen dances at sites around town since the spring. Another dance is planned in January at the Mount Airy Elementary School.

AT A GLANCE

Event: Mount Airy Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing on special exception request for community center

Time/date: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Location: Mount Airy Town Hall, 2 Park Ave.

Information: 795-6012, 831-5768 or 829-1424

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