Mount Jackson leaders set hearing on annexation

MOUNT JACKSON – A push to create a potential “mega site” for development in Mount Jackson moves apace despite growing opposition.

Town Council voted Tuesday to set a public hearing on a request by Robert Whitehurst and his sister, Eleanor Whitehurst, to annex 576 acres of land in Shenandoah County along Turkey Knob Road into the corporate limits. Council and the Planning Commission scheduled the public hearing for 7 p.m., June 1.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber gave a brief explanation of the Whitehurst’s request. The Whitehursts and Ray Burkholder, of the development firm Balzer and Associates, attended the meeting but did not comment.

Eleanor Whitehurst states in letter dated March 11 that they intend to seek to annex the 576 acres into the town and rezone the property for industrial use. They want to add the property to 136 acres the Whitehursts own in town limits that council recently rezoned to industrial use. The Whitehursts then want to market the combined property as a “mega site,” the letter states.

“Our goal is to bring in a company that will stimulate economic growth not only in the town of Mount Jackson, but also Shenandoah County and the surrounding area,” the letter states. “After much research and many meetings, with the generous time and help of our town officials, we recognize the rarity of our property’s location and the opportunity to invest in the economic future of our town.”

Also at the meeting, council set a public hearing for the same date and time on a request by Jason and Melanie Payne to annex their property at 1036 Georgetown Road into the town limits. Land owned by the Whitehursts and Frederickson Properties surrounds the Payne parcel on three sides, Fauber noted. Should council not approve the Whitehurst annexation request, the Paynes indicated at the last Planning Commission that they would not want their property annexed, Fauber said.

Council set the hearing dates before going into a closed session to discuss a personnel matter.

Outside the town office building, several people who attended the meeting expressed their concerns for the proposed annexation.

Jackie Dove and her husband Eddie run Dove’s Poultry Inc. on 63 acres on Whissler Road that backs up to the Whitehurst property. Jackie Dove pointed out that Robert Whitehurst had told town officials he wanted to pursue the annexation and rezoning because he could not make a living off of farming 576 acres.

“My husband and I have 63 acres and that’s all we do and we make a living,” Jackie Dove said.

Dove and others standing outside who did not give their names questioned whether the public hearing would make any difference.

“They already have their minds made up,” Dove said.

Council had said they would wait to annex the 576 acres until after they had had time to look at the rezoning of the property already in town, Dove recalled hearing from an earlier meeting. However, the town hasn’t taken time to look at the rezoned property and now they are moving forward on the annexation, Dove said. Dove and others outside agreed that it seemed like council was fast-tracking the annexation through the approval process.

One woman who did not give her name said the Whitehursts have less than a year to get the annexation approved. She also noted that town officials have not answered questions posed by residents about the annexation and, instead, have said they have to wait until after the process is complete. Dove said council still has not answered dozens of questions asked by residents about the matter.

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