By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK -- A controversial rezoning eyed as a way to attract industrial jobs to Shenandoah County failed to gain support Tuesday.
The Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to deny a county-initiated request to rezone approximately 92 acres of a 199-acre property along Oranda Road and Timberlake Road near Strasburg. The site runs parallel with Interstate 81 and lies across from the Carmeuse Lime & Stone quarry and the North Shenandoah Industrial Park. The county had initiated the rezoning for the owners, Glendale Properties.
Vice Chairman Dennis Morris made a motion to deny rezoning the property. Supervisor John "Dick" Neese seconded the motion. Supervisor David Ferguson and Chairman Conrad Helsley sided with Morris and Neese in voting down the rezoning initiative that had earlier this month received support by the Planning Commission.
A Glendale Properties representative, Will Orndorff, spoke to the board after the vote and noted that the entity had not been in a position to try to market the land. The owners tried to find the best use for the 92 acres. Orndorff, who grew up on the Glendale Farm, pointed out the land's proximity to a railroad and an interstate that could serve an industrial user.
"It's not a bucolic, rural landscape at Glendale Farm anymore," Orndorff said. "We're surrounded by industry, an interstate and a railroad."
Morris, who is seeking re-election in November, was given a petition with the signatures of 179 people he said opposed the rezoning. He submitted it at the meeting. Morris held a precinct meeting last week to hear concerns from residents about the proposal. Concerns over traffic on Oranda Road, more dust and noise in the area came to the front as people voiced opposition.
Morris said he has not received any correspondence from supporters of the proposal. But he acknowledged the importance of industry to the county's tax base.
"You need the right kind of industry to provide not only tax base but jobs for Shenandoah County," Morris said. "At the same time the Oranda community and the surrounding area would be tremendously impacted by this rezoning."
Supervisors Steven Baker and Sharon Baroncelli voted against the motion, indicating their support for the rezoning.
"I'd hate to see the possibility of jobs lost down the road for something," Baroncelli said before the vote. "We hear every single meeting -- jobs, jobs, jobs -- as well as the county's citizens' high regard for property rights and here we've got a lot of neighbors, which I can understand their concerns without the information on the table, but essentially telling their neighbor what they can and cannot do with their land, and it's very unfortunate that it's come to this situation."
Baroncelli suggested the property owners work again with the county officials and the neighbors to address and answer some of the lingering questions that had arisen over the rezoning. Baroncelli suggested the owners could bring more information back to the board.
"When it comes to ... property rights, when it comes to the possibility of jobs, it's an important decision and I'd rather not see this turned down based on emotional outpouring without all the facts present," Baroncelli said.
Neese noted his concerns with the issues of whether the town would provide water and sewer to the site, traffic and what type of industry would choose to build near the quarry.
Director of Community Development Brandon Davis has touted the property as a site that could attract an industrial user, and bring needed jobs and revenue to the county. Davis said the Virginia Department of Transportation had concerns with whether or not a traffic impact analysis would be required upon rezoning. County staff disagreed with VDOT that a study would be needed, Davis said.
Baroncelli acknowledged VDOT made a fair request but usually a rezoning comes along with a potential project. In this case the county did not yet have a prospective industrial user lined up to develop the site.
Davis also noted that he did not have new information from Strasburg with regards to any guarantee the town would provide water and sewer service to the site. Neese mentioned that issue as one that caused him concern with the rezoning. Davis said a letter from the town indicates no more than a "good-faith notice" of a desire by Strasburg to work with the county on the matter once a development proposal arose.
Baroncelli noted that this situation also is not unusual for a rezoning. She voiced concern that the board would deny the rezoning without first seeing all the necessary information.
The Office of Community Development, in cooperation with the landowners, Glendale Properties, sought to amend the county zoning map to change the site from agriculture to industrial use.
Challenges with the property include the potential need for improvements to Oranda Road to accommodate increase in traffic associated with development; the sensitivity of highly technical possible uses for the site adjacent to blasting operations at the quarry; a lack of a guarantee by Strasburg to provide water and sewer facilities; and decreased control by the government of prospective building caused by the rezoning to a more intensive classification.
The Planning Commission held a joint public hearing on the zoning request Sept. 5 during which people spoke for and against the initiative. The commission recommended the board approve the zoning change.
County resident Van Holmes criticized the commission rushing the rezoning request and quickly handing over the matter to the board.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org