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Town seeks more info on house move

By Alex Bridges

Mount Jackson leaders back the idea of saving a historic house in town but share doubts it can happen in time.

Town Council on Tuesday asked resident Gerald Forsburg to provide more details about his proposal to move the Nelson House on Main Street to a lot in the historic district on King Street owned by Mount Jackson.

Holtzman Corp. plans to move forward on construction of a new office building on the site of the historic Nelson House. Bill Holtzman has given Forsburg until Dec. 31 to relocate the house. Forsburg offered to relocate the house after Holtzman made it known in recent weeks he would need to demolish the building.

Forsburg presented his proposal to relocate the house to a vacant lot on King Street owned by Mount Jackson. Forsburg asked town leaders if they would consider selling the King Street lot. At the meeting, Forsburg said council appeared reluctant to consider selling the lot without knowing more details. On Wednesday, Forsburg said council seemed willing to sell the lot, but remains skeptical that he can get all the information together and make the necessary preparations by Dec. 31.

Interim Mayor Michael Koontz voiced support for the proposal but recognized Forsburg faces a tight deadline.

"We certainly think what he's trying to do is admirable and we'd love to save an old building," Koontz said. "We certainly were glad to hear what he had to say and if it's something he could pull off we'd certainly like to entertain it."

The town would need to hold a public hearing on any proposal to sell property that Mount Jackson owns, Koontz said.

"The taxpayers have a right to comment on what's going on there," Koontz said. "So we would need a very detailed proposal on what he plans on doing with that property before we could take it to public hearing."

Forsburg said the request for more information likely would create more delays in pushing the project forward and meeting the deadline. Koontz said the town would need to assess the value of the property before selling the lot. That process also could take weeks.

"I think everybody loves the idea," Koontz said. "The only thing that's really unfortunate about it is that this is a project they've been trying to get done for five years and now we're down to the last two weeks.

"We're not confident that it can happen just because of the time frame and the issues involved," Koontz said.

The town also would need to see a commitment from the utility providers on the relocation of power lines and other related equipment, Town Manager Kevin Fauber said. Also, the Virginia Department of Transportation must give its approval for the hauling of the house from its current location to the proposed site, Fauber noted. That process also could take weeks.

"The council would want to see all that documented, written, before they would consent to selling the property," Fauber said. "They're going to want to see firm commitments."

As Forsburg stated in an email to the Daily, the mover is ready to go forward with transporting the Nelson House. The utility companies need a few weeks to make their engineering calculations, Forsburg stated. Forsburg expressed hope that Mount Jackson would persuade Holtzman to give the team time needed to move the building. Forsburg said if all goes according to plan, the team could move the house off the lot in the first week of January, possibly park the house on the former Farm Bureau lot while they build the new foundation.

Forsburg says moving the house to 5973 King St. and restoring the structure would help revitalize that area of town.

In a Dec. 6 letter to town officials, Forsburg states that his proposal calls for moving the house to a vacant lot currently used for a recycling container. The lot would accommodate the Nelson House and parking, Forsburg states. The house also could be re-used as a small, professional office. The building would also generate revenue for the town through taxes. The State Historic Preservation Office has told Forsburg the home could be considered a contributing structure to the town's historic district if moved to the proposed site. Relocating the house also would meet goals in the urban design guidelines.

Forsburg has requested two, $25,000 grants from the town's economic development fund to cover the cost for sidewalks, curb and gutter, and street lamps along King Street adjacent to the town-owned lot at 5973 King St. and the neighboring property. Forsburg states he can use the grants as leverage for funds needed to move and restore the house.

The urban design guidelines state that financial aid should be offered as an incentive for development, Forsburg noted.

Also at the meeting, Town Council approved a request from Hammond Real Estate for a special-use permit needed to build a Family Dollar Store at 5454 Main St., on the former site of a landscaping company.

The permit's approval remains contingent on several factors. The Virginia Department of Transportation must sign off on the design for the entrance to the property off Main Street. The Board of Zoning Appeals also must grant a variance in the set-back requirements for the building. The developers also need to submit final application documents required for the project.

A few weeks ago, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted the developers a variance required for the project. However, the architect and the engineer did not calculate the brick into the building dimensions, Fauber said. The brick makes the building approximately 6 inches wider than indicated in the documents put before the Board of Zoning Appeals. The architect and engineer now need to go back to the board and request a new variance that would account for these dimensions. The town has a public hearing on the new variance request set for Jan. 7.

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

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