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Mount Jackson to hear comments on Holtzman plan

By Alex Bridges

Mount Jackson leaders take up Holtzman Corporation's new headquarters proposal next week, after a deadline to save a historic home passes.

The Planning Commission and Town Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday on Holtzman's request for a special-permit needed to expand its current offices. Plans call for Holtzman to construct a four-story, office building on company property at 5522 Main St. The design includes the construction a connection between the new building and the current headquarters.

In order to move forward on the expansion, Holtzman must remove the historic Nelson House on the site. Time has all but run out for a group seeking to relocate the house and save the structure from demolition.

Company owner and President Bill Holtzman said Monday they intend to begin demolition of the house and construction of the new building next month. But the idea to build a larger office complex isn't new. Holtzman came before the town leaders in 2007 with his proposal. Council at that time gave it the green light. Plans have called for the creation of a 5,400-square foot building -- four stories for the main section and a two-story connector to the existing offices.

As Holtzman explained, the company needs to come back to council for a new, special-use permit because some aspects of the building design have changed. The most significant change since 2007 -- the building has been essentially turned, making it deeper than it was wide, Holtzman said.

The building also has been redesigned to incorporate a more Colonial appearance, Holtzman added. The company had photographs taken of the historic Wythe House, in Colonial Williamsburg, and used the images to create the design of the future office building, Holtzman said.

"It's kind of a plain, Colonial-looking building and it will allow us in the future, if we ever need to, to add 29 feet to the back of it without changing the appearance of the building from the front," Holtzman said. "We didn't really care for the appearance of it the way it was. But it would also have meant if we wanted to add to it, we'd have had to add to the side, which would have adversely affected the front. So we just turned it."

Holtzman applied for and received from the Shenandoah County Building Inspection and Code Enforcement Department on Nov. 25 a permit to demolish the Nelson House. The permit gives Holtzman six months to raze the building but does not specify a date for the demolition to begin.

Mount Jackson business owner Gerald Forsburg, who has a background in design and architecture, started a campaign to raise the money needed to at least move the house from the Holtzman property.

Forsburg sought to relocate most of the house to property owned by the town on King Street in the historic district. But Holtzman gave Forsburg until Tuesday to move the house. Town Council earlier this month required Forsburg to provide proof that he would have the financial support to move the house to King Street property before council could consider selling the lot to him. Forsburg also had to show council how he could move the building down the town streets -- a process that would require approval by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Forsburg said in an email Monday that he and his supporters "requested either a bridge loan or a gift from Mr. Holtzman to get the house to safe ground." Forsburg said he sent Holtzman the request on Christmas Eve.

Forsburg has indicated on his company website that he came up with the financing needed to move the house. He estimates the cost at $100,000 and the house could sit on cribbing at the former Farm Bureau lot until the supporters can work out the rest of the project.

Forsburg has said he supports Holtzman's plan to build its new offices. But Forsburg criticized the push to tear down the Nelson House if an available lot exists for the building.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber explained in a Nov. 25 memorandum to council members that the entire Holtzman site falls under a master site plan that outlines a range of planned changes and facilities. Any amendments to this site plan are allowed by way of a special-use permit that the zoning administrator may grant.

The town approved a special-use permit in May 2007 for a new headquarters building and other buildings in the company complex.

But a lot has happened in more than five years since the town issued the initial permit.

"While the architecture has been significantly improved, other than turning the building, the location and size of the building are essentially unchanged," the memo states. "Meanwhile, several new parking area have been created on or near the site, and some changes to the Town Code have been adopted."

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

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