Council delays vote on annexation

MOUNT JACKSON – Town leaders delayed action on a controversial proposal to add 576 acres to Mount Jackson eyed for industrial development.

Town Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday to table until its August meeting a request to annex the land from Shenandoah County along Turkey Knob Road. Councilman Rod Shepherd voiced concern that all members should be present for the vote on the request. Council members Whitney Miller and Donald “Donnie” Pifer did not attend the meeting.

“This is a tremendously significant vote … but, with two council members missing, I would hate for us to go forward with this tonight with them not here,” Shepherd said. “In addition, the Planning Commission has some other work that they want to do on this and some other advice that they want to provide as well.”

Council also has time to consider the request. Such an annexation, if approved, would not take effect until Dec. 31, Shepherd noted. Council has at least four meetings between now and Dec. 31 to make a decision with all members present, Shepherd said.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously July 6 to recommend that council approve an ordinance to extend the town’s corporate limits by annexing 576 acres owned by Robert Whitehurst Jr. and Eleanor Whitehurst. The annexation also would include property owned by Jason Payne that is surrounded on three sides by the Whitehursts’ land.

The commission made the recommendation with the caveat that no rezoning of the annexed property would take place until after the town updates its Comprehensive Plan and its land-use regulations to reflect the newly added acreage.

After the meeting, Councilman Kenneth Hackenbracht, who also serves on the Planning Commission, explained that the panel needs to consider exactly what uses would fall under the light-industrial zoning.

Shepherd concurred.

“We want to be real careful we don’t annex and do a sloppy rezone and God knows what could come in there,” Shepherd said. “We want to make sure this is very carefully controlled.”

Council had not scheduled the request for a vote as anticipated, but rather to discuss the matter as an information item.

The Whitehursts tout the land as a boon for the town that, when added to 136 acres they also own within the corporate limits, could serve as an industrial development “mega site.” The town recently rezoned the 136 acres from agricultural to light industrial use. The 576 acres, if annexed, would remain zoned for agricultural use until the town rezoned the property.

The commission’s vote came after a public hearing in which many people spoke against the annexation. Opponents voiced concerns about how the development of the 576 acres could affect nearby roads and traffic. Supporters have said the town needs the property to attract a large-scale, industrial developer that would bring jobs and revenue to the area.

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