Town set to annex land for mega site

MOUNT JACKSON – The town’s annexation of 512 acres takes effect tonight but the land’s future development remains uncertain.

The Planning Commission meets Monday to continue its work on the revision of the Comprehensive Plan, the discussion of which now includes the potential development of the newly annexed property as well as 135 acres rezoned from agricultural use to industrial. Whitehurst Development purchased the properties on Turkey Knob Road from Robert and Eleanor Whitehurst in May.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Wednesday that work on the revised Comprehensive Plan is still in the early stages.

“As part of the revision, we’ll look at this land area and try to plan and try to figure out what we want that area to look like moving forward, try to plan 15-20 years out,” Fauber said.

The Planning Commission approved the annexation earlier this year with the caveat that the town would wait until after the town updates its Comprehensive Plan before it considered rezoning the land. The commission began its discussions about the Comprehensive Plan and then created a focus group of town residents and business leaders along with owners of adjacent properties in Shenandoah County to work on the update. Focus group members are Evelyn Burner, Jack Frady, Jim Hines, Joe Proctor, Larry Ambrose, Mike Connelly, Mike Koontz, Orville Smoot, Robert “Chip” Belyea and Wendell Cochran.

Focus group meetings should start in January, Fauber said.

“We did say that before we’d consider rezoning the tract we wanted (to) work our way through the Comprehensive Plan revision,” Fauber said.

Just as Mount Jackson did the last time officials revised the Comprehensive Plan in 2006, the town plans to send a survey to businesses, property owners and residents to help guide the revision work.

“So we kind of have something to go off of and see if the views and the positions have changed over the last 10 years as to what people want,” Fauber said.

The Planning Commission will talk about the changes to the survey.

Fauber said he expects the early discussions about the annexation to address the potential traffic impact of the land’s development. More detailed discussions likely would not start until the town receives a request to rezone the land, Fauber said.

An agreement with Shenandoah County allowed the town to annex the land because it lies in an area for development. The Whitehursts touted the total property area as a potential mega site for industrial development when they sought the annexation in early 2015. The request drew fire from adjacent property owners who voiced concern that annexing and rezoning the farmland for industrial use would harm the area and, if developed increase traffic on surrounding roads.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership continue to market the 135 acres recently rezoned by the town. Marketing efforts likely will include the annexed property.

“I haven’t heard of any leads or anything like that,” Fauber said. “The marketing part came about here a couple months ago so it’s still pretty early.”

The Planning Commission also plans to hold a joint public hearing with Town Council on Monday on a request to rezone approximately 10 acres of agricultural land to light industrial use. The land lies surrounded by property also rezoned to industrial use and considered part of a larger site.

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