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Plymouth council juggles some development issues

By Staff
Joint meeting considers downtown, U.S. 64 growth
Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH — Washington County’s seat is growing and will be developed, the town’s mayor insists.
How and where that development will affect the small community on the Roanoke River were topics of discussion Monday night.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Byers asked how many buildings downtown were appropriate for residences according to town ordinances. Planning and Zoning Director Ben Howell said there are six buildings on Water Street that have more than one story and between three and five buildings that would qualify to have residences on their first floors.
Councilwoman Vicki Sawyer worried that allowing too many first-floor residences would deter visitors from coming downtown.
Councilman Shelton McNair worried that regulating building heights, setbacks and building design in downtown might scare away prospective developers.
Howell said strict regulations downtown, in his experience as a planner, would not scare developers away but attract the type builders the town would want to bring in.
Drye said he envisioned an initial “colony” of residents downtown that would help attract residents developers and businesses.
Mayor Brian Roth said the realization of a revitalized downtown are on the minds of board members and council members, but that circumstances are different from when Plymouth once bustled.
Washington Street is the main artery leading from U.S. 64 to downtown Plymouth. The road has been closed to through traffic at different times since August so utility lines under the street could be replaced.
Council members and board members agreed that tapping into the pool of potential tourists traveling U.S. 64 is critical to the town’s plan to grow and prosper. Byers said Plymouth is a “perfect stop for eating.”
Discussion then turned to what the town could do to check development along the section of U.S. 64 within its jurisdiction. Roth warned that regardless of what regulations the town put in place, the property is privately owned and would be developed. It is the responsibility of the council to work with those property owners to “put the right safeguards in place to meet everyone’s needs,” he said.