Mount Jackson residents weigh in on rezoning bid
MOUNT JACKSON — The Mount Jackson Planning Commission voted unanimously to table making a recommendation until its regular meeting April 6, following a special joint public hearing for a rezoning request of 136 acres on Turkey Knob Road from agricultural to limited industrial use.
More than 70 citizens from Mount Jackson and the surrounding area turned out to voice their opinion on the rezoning request, which was brought to the commission by Robert Whitehurst in March. Whitehurst is also asking the commission and council to consider annexing and rezoning 576 acres along Turkey Knob, in order to create a large “industrial pad ready mega site” for potential employers.
Before opening the floor to comments from the public, Ray Burkholder, of Balzer and Associates, a Verona-based civil engineering firm, gave a Power Point presentation on the challenges and opportunities of the potential mega site.
Burkholder said the site fits into with the town’s comprehensive plan and is continuous with existing industrial sites in the town limits. He said turning the property into a mega site is a multi-step process, requiring studies into environmental, traffic, utility, geological and storm water studies.
Burkholder said potential benefits from the site, if it were to come to fruition, would include an increase in higher-paying jobs and increased revenue for the town and county, with between $957,000 to $2 million in revenue for the town and $3.7 million to $7 million for the county.
More than 15 members of the public commented on the request, with the majority voicing concerns against it, citing increased tractor trailer traffic, storm water runoff and loss of farmland as points of contention.
Gary Lance, a Mount Jackson resident and a member of the County’s planning commission, said he was not in favor of the request. He said while he supports “slow, orderly growth” he was concerned about the amount of runoff from the property, the property’s proximity to a school and how many public amenities, such as water, sewer and emergency services, would have to be expanded to accommodate the project.
Rob Frazier, director of health and human resources at Frazier’s Quarry, said he was in support of the rezoning request. He said he believed the area does not have enough jobs and the area is primed for “sustainable growth.”
Todd Holtzman, a former town council member, said he was also in favor of the request. He said nothing stays the same and “small towns need to move forward.” He said when economic conditions change, whether it is for good or ill, people will react with “fear and uncertainty.” He said he believes the rezoning request will bring jobs to the area.
Gerald Forsburg, of Mount Jackson, said he was against the request. After discussing his issues with receiving permitting for a farmers’ market he tried to start in town, Forsburg said he did not believe the request fit with the town and county comprehensive plans and that the mega site would not benefit the community. He also asked if there were “private meetings prior to the meeting.”
Bonnie Good, chair of the commission, said the rezoning request presented a “unique opportunity” for the town and it raises many questions for town. She noted the “comprehensive plan is not a legal document, but a guideline for growth.” Good said there are both positive and negatives to the request and many of the questions brought up were about issues that are too far into the future to predict.
“There’s one thing I can agree with Mr. Holtzman about,” she said. “Change happens … when I go down Main Street, I see closed up shops and thrift stores … that’s a dying town.”
Forsburg interrupted Good, shouting “do something about it, give incentives to downtown businesses, not a mega site.” Mayor Bucky Miller asked for Forsburg to leave and he was escorted from Town Hall by Mount Jackson Police.
Lance requested Good close the public hearing and decide what to do about the rezoning request because “we’re just spinning our wheels and getting nowhere here.” Good did that and took the commission into a special meeting, where it discussed, but took no action on the rezoning of the Whitehurst property, as well as a rezoning request brought before the commission by Todd Holtzman, for a duplex at 5727 Main Street.
The Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. at town hall for its regular meeting April 6.
Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com