‘Mega’ impact?

A sign opposing a proposed mega site is posted along this section of Wissler Road in Mount Jackson. Rich Cooley/Daily

MOUNT JACKSON – Jackie and Eddie Dove fear an industrial “mega site” proposed for Mount Jackson will hurt their farm and others.

The Doves run a 63-acre turkey farm on Wissler Road near Turkey Knob Road in Shenandoah County. They bought the farm, Dove’s Poultry Inc., in 2007 with the intention of making a living from the operation. Jackie Dove says they’ve succeeded and the farm continues to provide their livelihood. The operation houses tens of thousands of turkeys at a time.

“This is our livelihood,” Jackie Dove said. “This is all we do.”

Adjacent to the Dove’s home and operation lies about 576 acres of farmland owned by Robert Whitehurst and Frederickson Properties. Mount Jackson officials are considering a request by Whitehurst to annex the 576 acres into the town limits with the intent to eventually rezone the agricultural land for industrial development. Coupled with 146 acres already in town and recently rezoned for industrial use, the Whitehursts have touted the entire property as a potential mega site for development.

The proposal, as it moves swiftly through the approval process, has riled neighbors. Residents continue to post “No Mega Site” signs along the roads around the Whitehurst property. But many neighboring property owners don’t want to speak out for fear of retribution.

Jackie Dove and her husband Eddie ride along the edge of their turkey farm on Wissler Road in Mount Jackson. Their property is located beside the property that could become an industrial mega site. Rich Cooley/Daily

“My whole thing about this is it’s hard fighting money,” Dove said.

“But this is our livelihood and I just wish other people around here would stand up and say something else, too,” Dove said. “I don’t think they understand. I mean, even the residents that live in Mount Jackson don’t think that this is gonna affect them, but it is.”

Dove said she fears a developed mega site would also impact the environment.

“You know, we like the country and I know you can only get so far away from it before it starts developing,” Dove said.

Robert Whitehurst said Friday he wouldn’t comment on the Dove’s concerns or on the annexation effort.

“It’s gonna be explained in the meetings,” Whitehurst said. “The state’s going to be explaining things. At this moment I don’t want to make any comments for the newspaper.”

The Whitehursts continue to allow the property to be used for farming. Whitehurst said he’s leased the property to friends of his who are farming corn on the site.

“Everything on the farm will be used in agriculture until it’s sold and that which is not sold will stay in agriculture,” he said.

Whitehurst noted that he’s seeking to annex the property, not rezone it.

“It’s not going to be rezoned until a buyer comes in and rezones it,” Whitehurst said.

The Doves also worry about how a large-scale development might affect the wells they use at home and for their farming operation.

The Whitehursts have said that part of the intent of annexing the larger parcel is to allow easier connection to Mount Jackson’s water and sewer lines.

Town Council approved a request by the Whitehursts last month to rezone 146 acres in Mount Jackson from agricultural to limited industrial. Council is expected to take up the Whitehurst’s request to annex another 576 acres next month. Whether or not council approves the rezoning remains uncertain, though members have expressed support for it.

The Doves also blame demolition noise for a turkey “pile up” that occurred earlier this year. When the Whitehursts demolished several buildings on their farm on a night in February, the noise startled the easily spooked turkeys in a nearby holding house. As Jackie Dove explained, when spooked, the turkeys run away to the nearest wall. More turkeys run and pile up on the first group and so forth. In all, about 100 turkeys died from suffocation. The turkeys were discovered the next morning.

Whitehurst used explosives during the demolition to break up a concrete foundation, Dove said. But even shining a light into the holding house can spook the birds, the Doves said.

“It just irritates me,” Dove said. “If a mega site goes in there … trucks coming in or vehicles coming in at night can spook our turkeys really easy.”

“We rarely have turkeys piling up,” Dove said. “When we do, something happened, and we know either one of the feed trucks came in with their lights on at night and the lights went through the building and it spooked them.”

She added that excavation of the Whitehurst property for whatever development might occur on the site could also create loud noises that might spook the turkeys. The rocky terrain might require blasting, she noted.

Town Council has scheduled a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission for June 1 to receive comments on the Whitehurst’s request to annex the 576 acres.

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