Mount Jackson leaders to hear annex request

By Alex Bridges

MOUNT JACKSON — The town could grow slightly under a proposal to annex land from Shenandoah County for potential development.

The Planning Commission and Town Council plan to hold a public hearing Nov. 4 on a landowners’ request to extend the Mount Jackson corporate limits and take in land known as the Ambrose/Southard-Sundance Properties. Council may take action at its regular meeting the following week.

The annexation proposal calls for the town to bring in three parcels of land totaling 62.22 acres to the south end of Mount Jackson.

Gary Ambrose, Larry Ambrose and W. Maynard Southard applied to annex properties into the town limits. The land in the annexation request includes part of the Ambrose Farm and the Southard/Sundance properties, formerly known as the Miller Farm, located at the intersection of U.S. 11 and the Shenandoah River.

In a recent interview, Assistant Town Manager Charles “Charlie” Moore explained that an old agreement between Southard and the Ambrose brothers’ father calls for the annexation to include 1.5 acres of the Ambrose property that connects the larger parcel with the corporate limits. The agreement between the property owners also grants an easement that lets a water and sewer line from the town cross the smaller Ambrose parcel into the area owned by Sundance.

The Sundance properties are zoned in the county for residential use. The original special-use permit for the property proposed the development of apartments and a nursing home, Moore recalled. The permit was approved long before Moore became town manager of Mount Jackson 15 years ago. The land hasn’t been developed.

“The applicants I think are just saying let us get it annexed and we’ll see if a new owner wants to be interested in doing something on it,” Moore said. “The bottom line is there is no plan for any sort of development and there are some old ideas … Basically they are all disregarded.”

The town would rezone the land to agricultural use once annexed, Moore explained. Any developer seeking to build on the property would need to go through the town’s process to do so. The town’s zoning ordinance allows some development on agricultural land. Moore said fewer than 40 homes could be built on the entire 62 acres by right without rezoning. Otherwise a developer may seek to rezone the property for other construction projects.

A map of the areas considered for potential annexation show the land in question for the public hearing lies east of U.S. 11 and Interstate 81. The Shenandoah River flows along the southern and eastern sides of the larger property.

An agreement reached in 2001 between Mount Jackson and Shenandoah County called for the town to add certain pieces of land over time. The town then agrees to provide municipal services, such as water, to the annexed properties when development occurs.

Mount Jackson completed a study prior to the approval of the agreement to determine the feasibility of annexing land from the county. The annexation plan identified two study areas.

Under the agreement, the town offered to “permanently renounce its right to become a city.” The agreement notes that, as a result of annexation, the county would lose revenue from the sale of motor vehicle licenses, sales tax, the share of profits from the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the utility tax. However, the town would reimburse the county at a rate of $21,182 per year for three years, according to the agreement. Parties also agreed that the town would return 100 percent of the increases in sales-tax revenue as a result of the annexation.

The agreement limits the town to annexing only areas that can be served by water and sewer within five years of any annexation but only as it becomes “reasonably necessary and economically feasible.”

The agreement also calls for the town to not attempt to annex any part of the Mount Jackson Industrial Park, which lies within one of the two study areas, for a period of 15 years from the date of the document, except in the event that an owner of land in the industrial park petitions or requests the annexation. The agreement still leaves it up to the town to determine the feasibility of the annexation request.

The town also agreed to not seek to change the order of the listing of the names on signs on Interstate 81 northbound, which list Shenandoah Caverns first and Mount Jackson second. The Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for the signs.

Mount Jackson officials in 2001 looked at sections of land outside town limits for potential, future growth. The town invited a group of officials from Richmond to tour the sites. The town leaders did not want to annex all the land at the time but saw a benefit to do so in the future.

The state allows annexations to take effect either June 30 or Dec. 31 of any given year. Mount Jackson Town Council would need to approve the annexation at its November meeting for it to take effect this year.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com