Planning commission debates growth of proposed mega site

MOUNT JACKSON – The Mount Jackson Planning Commission met Monday to work out zoning issues and potential growth plans for the proposed “mega site” under the comprehensive plan.

Bonnie Good, chairwoman of the planning commission, offered an idea to consider growth of the site at five-year intervals and rezone accordingly. She said while the potential is exciting, too much growth too fast could do more harm than good to the town.

“The question is, how fast and how much growth is beneficial before it overwhelms us as a town,” she said. She added that a population boom could deplete resources of schools, sewers, police forces and other public goods.

However, Robert Whitehurst Jr., who was sworn in Monday as a commissioner and owns much of the land to be used as the mega site, pushed against the restrictions on growth. He said some sites in and around the county are too small to attract certain industries and end up as massive wastes of money.

“We need to follow the demand,” he said.

Good, on the other hand, said it’s about the town, not the businesses.

“We’re not here to please the industries, we’re here to please the town,” she said.

Commissioner Heather Diehl tentatively sided with Whitehurst on the matter. She said the commission agreed to issue by-right permits for certain industries, much easier to obtain for businesses than a special-use permit, which requires a hearing. This is a step toward a more business-friendly climate, which contradicts the five-year growth assessments.

“We took a huge step forward with the by-right permits,” Diehl said. “Are we pulling the reins back on that?”

In a separate turn that could mean a restructuring for many of the ordinances workshopped by both the planning commission and the focus group, Good agreed to consider an idea to consider merging light-industrial (I-2) and heavy-industrial (I-3) into one zone.

The merging of the two zones will lead to an arduous rewriting of many of the ordinances in the comprehensive plan, but will make the zoning process more simple for perspective businesses.

At the meeting, Mayor J.G. “Bucky” Miller swore in Larry Ambrose, as well as Whitehurst, onto the commission.

To expedite the process and continue collaboration between the focus group and the planning commission, Good called for a joint work session for the planning commission and the focus group at 7  p.m. June 21.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or