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The future of a proposed sports complex is dead for now after Mount Airy’s mayor and Town Council voted 4-1 tonight to deny annexation for the Rigler property along Buffalo Road.

Councilmen Christopher Everich, Peter Helt, Gary Nelson and Mayor David Pyatt voted to deny annexation while councilwoman Wendi Peters voted to allow annexation.

Mount Airy’s Town Hall was standing room only at its Monday meeting as a crowd filled up the council chambers focusing on the heated annexation decision.

Outside before the meeting, a small crowd surrounding the applicant, Dr. Emmett Full carried signs supporting annexation that read “Seniors for Full Annex” and “Keep Hope Alive Vote Yes.”

The council commented at length on the proposed annexation of 8.3 acres at 6825 Buffalo Road, beside the Summit Ridge community.

Full, owner of Buffalo Road Investment, has proposed to build Mount Airy Sports Complex on the site, complete with an indoor soccer field, basketball courts, trampoline room and miniature golf course.

Full had said at the Sept. 16 public hearing if the property was not annexed, he would give up.

Now, he isn’t sure and said he has to take time to decide.

“It’s a little more complicated than what I anticipated,” he said to The Eagle after the meeting. “It’s hard to step away from something like this completely.”

Pyatt said Full could come back in six months to request annexation again.

The process for annexation includes not considering any proposed uses, town officials had said but that point was wrestled with throughout the process.

The Mount Airy Planning Commission recommended to the council against taking the property into town limits due to a proposed 65,000-square-foot sports complex.

Council members wrestled with whether they should consider a proposed use along with the proposed annexation.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Helt said.

Town attorney Thomas McCarron said it would be a judgment call.

Peters said to her, the issue is cut-and-dry and the council should be consistent with messages and actions.

“We’ve been in a habit sending mixed messages out to the community as far as investing in our community,” she said. “We want these things brought forward, but we also need to commit to consistency in results and consistency in handling.”

Everich said any use or harm — perceived or real — must be considered.

“Clearly a portion of this community is really against this annexation because their perception is a large community recreation center will go into their backyards,” he said.

To Peters point, Everich said he didn’t see how the council could work with residents when it works against some of the population.

He added that a sports complex and other commercial interests should be focused on Center and Main streets and the Twin Arch Business Park.

Pyatt brought up the idea of annexation agreements. The town does not have one with Full, which would stipulate what the property be used for, he said.

“It just troubles me to bring to this what I consider a marriage because you bring land into a town without having an agreed use for that property,” he said. “It seems to me there’s more questions than ever.”

Nelson said use has to be considered and just because the town’s master plan says property should be annexed doesn’t mean the property must be annexed.

Residents had criticized that move and the Planning Commission because several members are from the Summit Ridge neighborhood. If Summit Ridge members recused, the vote still would have been in favor.

Yet the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission made a favorable recommendation for the town to annex the land.

The default zoning of the property would be R1, which allows single family homes, parks, playgrounds, cemeteries, nature studies, among other uses.

A sports complex would require a special exemption on the property, plus still has to go through the Planning Commission to have site plans and design approved.

Nelson said despite what many residents throughout the town want, the neighbors of the project must be kept in mind.

“While there are occasions where a segment community needs to sacrifice for the betterment of the community, I can see that case,” he said. “Here, I don’t think that's possible without throwing a segment of the community under the bus.”

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