Mt. Airy Art Garage officials and nearby neighbors have come to an agreement that will allow it to expand in a way that pleases both sides.
At a West Mt. Airy Neighbors Zoning Committee meeting last month, garage officials said they are looking to install seven new artist studios inside that would allow people to come by and work there. They also hope the space would allow the artists to set up what garage representatives are calling "art markets," which would permit them to sell their work from inside.
Committee members said at the meeting that the property is currently zoned for commercial use, but artist studios of that sort are not considered to be commercial in nature. A variance would allow it to house the studios inside its property.
People who live near the space at 9-11 W. Mt. Airy Ave., however, said at the meeting they were concerned that glass blowers or other noisy artists could set up shop inside a studio and create a noise problem. They also worried that exhaust could be blown through a chimney adjacent to private homes and properties.
Zoning Committee members said a proviso that would attempt to restrict activities like glass blowing from happening on the site could potentially be inserted into any variance.
After the committee voted to support a variance in this particular situation—it makes recommendations to the city Zoning Board of Adjustment, which then makes its final call on the matter—the neighbors and the art garage officials went to work to try to work out an agreement that would be amenable to everyone.
Neighbor Ben Monette said he was pleased with what the two sides settled upon. Essentially, they said there would be no glassblowing or any such activities that could cause disruption to the neighbors' well-being.
Monette said he wants to support activities like the art garage near Mt. Airy's main thoroughfare.
"Germantown Avenue is still trying to find out what it wants to be," he said. "This potentially is a good step forward for that as it kind of grows up.
"We're definitely positive about it," Monette added.
Art Garage President Linda Slodki said she was similarly pleased.
"The neighbors want an art center, and we want to be responsive to our community’s concerns—after all, we all live in the Northwest, as do our MAAG member artists," Slodki wrote in an email. "We talked it out, we refined our issues, and we are just really pleased at the outcome."
The Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing is March 15.