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Support grows for Nelson House project

By Alex Bridges

A Mount Jackson man's effort to save a historic house from demolition gained more support this week.

The American Association of Small Property Owners joined Gerald Forsburg to help raise money to move the Nelson House before Dec. 31 from its location on Main Street to a town-owned lot on King Street. The Holtzman Corporation plans to move forward next month on a project to build a new office building on the site of the Nelson House after trying for years to find a taker for the historic structure.

Preservation Northern Shenandoah Valley also sent a letter to town officials and Bill Holtzman, owner and president of Holtzman Corporation, urging parties to work with Forsburg and to give him and organizers more time to save the house.

Town Council asked Forsburg to provide information that would show the financial commitment to the relocation before it would consider selling the property to him for the house. Council already has held its regular meeting for December and to sell the property would require a public hearing.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Wednesday that council has not scheduled any special meetings to discuss the issue, nor has council or the town received the information requested of Forsburg.

But Forsburg stated in a news release issued Wednesday that he and organizers of the effort to move the house took a significant step toward getting the financial commitment requested by the town.

The partnership between Forsburg and the association allows donors to make tax-deductible contributions to the effort. Forsburg stated in the release that moving the house to "safe ground" off the Holtzman property will cost approximately $150,000, not including the price for a new lot.

As Forsburg noted in the news release, he has only a few days left to show the financial commitment to the project. The ability for supporters to receive tax-deductible donations should help show that commitment, Forsburg said.

Forsburg has admitted his time is running out to relocate the house so that Holtzman can move forward on his project -- a plan Forsburg has supported.

Forsburg said the town-owned lot in Mount Jackson's Historic District would suit the house. The State Historic Preservation Office has stated that organizers will be moving the structure within the existing, historic context, Forsburg notes in the release.

Forsburg also has received support from Preservation Northern Shenandoah Valley. Betsy Fields, president of that organization, sent a letter to Town Council and Holtzman asking them to consider Forsburg's pursuit.

"I understand and appreciate the need for due process involved in transferring public property to the private sector," Fields states in the letter. "It is true that Mr. Forsburg's proposal has come at the proverbial 'eleventh hour,' but please realize that the financial feasibility of his proposal hinges upon moving the house into the historic district in order to take advantage of historic rehabilitation tax credits."

Fields notes that no one took Holtzman up on the offer for the house because the cost to move and restore the building did not make sense. Tax credits for restoring the house should help provide an incentive, Fields states. However, as she acknowledges, time is running out and Town Council has created a possible chicken-or-the-egg situation.

"You want to see a solid financial plan before agreeing to convey the property," Fields states. "Mr. Forsburg's investors need to know that the property will be made available before they commit financing."

Fields suggests council resolve to convey the King Street property to Forsburg provided that he meet certain conditions, such as present an acceptable financial plan for the rehabilitation of the house. Fields states this could happen in less than two weeks.

Fields also points out that conveying town-owned, tax-exempt property to a private owner would allow Mount Jackson to collect revenue from the lot. Any business that locates in the house would generate money for the town through taxes, Fields notes.

Donations are being accepted through an online fundraising service at https://fundly.com/save-the-historic-nelson-mansion and checks may be made payable to: American Association of Small Property Owners Attn: Save the Historic Nelson House PO Box 957 Mount Jackson, VA 22842. Forsburg said donors will be honored at the Nelson House grand opening at a later date.

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

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