Council OKs rezoning for agriculture store

STRASBURG – A developer can move forward on plans to make changes to the Southern States store in town.

But a major part of those plans calls for the developer to remove an old house, built in the early 1900s, to make way for a new entrance to the business.

Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to grant a request by Rockingham Cooperative to rezone 479 E. King St. from residential to business park/light industrial. Vice Mayor Richard Redmon and Councilman Scott Terndrup did not attend the meeting.

The property lies on the east side of Strasburg Farm and Home Service – a Southern States dealer. The applicant sought the rezoning in order to join the property with the Southern States, remove the existing house and create a new entrance for the business. A large tree on the property will remain.

Linda Wheeler, who lives near the site on the other side of the street, spoke in support of the plans during a public hearing held on the rezoning. After her initial concerns about the plans, Wheeler said her feelings have since changed. Wheeler said she likes the fact that the trees on the property and the house served as a buffer between the business area of King Street and the homes.

Ken Patterson, of Patterson Consulting, told council that the firm had addressed some of the concerns raised in recent meetings and work sessions. Plans now call for the project to include more extensive stormwater management measures such as a bio-retention pond. Additionally, the developer will use an earthtone, not white, for a fence to be installed along Washington Street.

However, the house must go to allow for the entrance. Town regulations do not allow a commercial entrance on the residential Washington Street. Patterson explained that Rockingham Co-op doesn’t try to raze or remove old structures and the company operates in a repurposed building.

Patterson is offering to gift the house to any takers, free of charge, if they can remove the structure. The firm would like to receive proposals from potential takers by no later than the end of December. If the company does not receive any proposals to take the house off the site by that time, the firm will entertain offers to remove pieces from the property. Patterson said old bricks and other parts of the house can have value. The house must be removed from site by the end of April.

“But the intent – and I’ll tell you this for the record – is that the house is not shoved over and ends up in a landfill,” Patterson said. “There are products in that home of great value.”

Patterson also intends to take photographs inside and outside the house, once the occupants have left, for historical purposes.

Patterson Consulting’s plans call for the removal of the house on the site and the creation of the new commercial entrance to state standards; new paving and additional parking spaces, improved sidewalks, green space, vinyl fencing and landscape buffering between the properties.

Redevelopment of the business adjacent to the rezoned parcel includes the ceasing of its milling operations, removal of related equipment and conversion of the mill building into an Ace Hardware store and farm agricultural center. The developer plans to add a metal warehouse on the north end of the existing building that sells agricultural products. They also plan to pave a large portion, but not all, of the 3-acre site, eliminating much of the dust created by the gravel parking lot.

In response to a question by Councilman Robert B. “Bob” Baker, Patterson said the firm considered using permeable material for the parking lot but decided against it, given its maintenance needs.

The applicant submitted a site plan and performed the necessary tasks – hosting a neighborhood meeting, attending the County Town Technical Review Team and performing a Phase I environmental assessment. Planning and Zoning Administrator Wyatt Pearson said the project falls in line with the goals of the Community Plan.

Also at the meeting, council:
• Voted to amend the town code to match the state regulations to allow the use of pneumatic guns within the corporate limits. The code does not allow any type of weapon or projectile to be shot within the town limits. The General Assembly amended the state code several years to allow for the use of pneumatic guns, arrows and other similar devices to be shot on private property, at shooting ranges or on property zoned for these purposes, such as paintball facilities.

• Voted to allow the mayor to sign resolutions pertaining to the town’s Community Development Block Grant Downtown Revitalization Project. The Department of Housing and Community Development requires that the town adopt certain resolutions for the project within a 90-day period. The town could forfeit the grant if it does not adopt the resolutions. Town Manager Ryan Spitzer said Strasburg would not lose its ability to seek federal grant money even if it had to demolish the Brill Grocery building and taxi stand.

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