Town passes rezoning request
MOUNT JACKSON — Town Council approved the rezoning of 135 acres of land near Turkey Knob Road from agricultural to limited industrial on a unanimous 6-0 vote on Tuesday night.
Approval of the rezoning is the first of a larger 712-acre “mega site” plan that was proposed by Robert Whitehurst earlier this year.
Town Manager Kevin Fauber noted, “Looking at the big picture, the next step for Mr. Whitehurst and his family is to request annexation of the property that is currently in the county.”
The 135 acres are within the town limits, but the remaining 577 acres are outside town limits.
“There will be more public hearings for that,” Fauber noted, adding, “If that area is brought in to town, then [Whitehurst] would have to ask for a rezoning of that property.”
Prior to the approval of the rezoning, town and county residents voiced opinions on the proposed “mega site.” Similar to the March 25 public hearing, they varied between support and opposition.
County resident Steve Stein said one of his “biggest concerns has been not having information on other opportunities” for the development of the site.
“I believe in diversification. I believe that if something of this nature were to come in, it would be a huge project, and we’d have all of our eggs in one basket,” Stein said.
Bill Holtzman, of Holtzman Oil, voiced his support of the rezoning as well as the mega site at Tuesday’s meeting. “I never envisioned us having this opportunity, but I am delighted to have the opportunity.”
“I think it opens the door for a lot of opportunities for our young people particularly,” he said.
Councilwoman Whitney Miller thanked area residents for their interest on the topic.
“We’re also doing our homework and trying to learn as much as we can about a situation … we’ve never been placed in,” Miller said.
Miller added, “This particular big picture, this amount of land is unique along the [Interstate] 81 corridor.”
Also at the meeting, the town decided that, starting July 1, it will be looking to start a new free curbside recycling experiment for its residents.
Miller noted that this “experiment” would be a one-year deal and the town would cover the cost of the program to provide recycling bins for town residents.
“It would really give us a good idea to kind of see the baseline of how much … we could save in landfill fees,” Miller added.
Councilman Rod Shepard said, “Basically, we want to see … how many materials we can get into the recycling stream and not going to the landfill.”
Since the town is covering the costs for the bins, Shepard noted that this would not add any fees to residents in the fiscal year 2016.
“If you use it, if you fill it up and get a lot of waste out the waste treatment and into the recycling stream, the town will save money by not having to pay what is called a ‘tipping fee,'” Shepard explained.
Shepard said the tipping fee the town has to pay at the landfill would decrease as residents recycle more.
“We’re going to study it and watch it closely through the coming year,” Shepard said. “Hopefully, we get enough recyclables in the stream that we won’t ever need to charge.”
Also at the meeting:
• The council moved to promote Sgt. Jeff Sterner to the position of chief of police. Sterner had been in the role of acting chief of police since Chief J.D. Fadley resigned the position on Jan. 15.
• On May 12, the town will hold a public hearing to discuss its fiscal year 2016 budget as well as the budget for 2015.
“Essentially, there’s not any major tax increases or changes,” Shepard said, noting that there is a “slight adjustment in the water and sewer rates.”
He said state agencies that grant the town “loans and low interest grants” have told the town that its water rates are “too low.”
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com