Old Triplett rezoning draws protests

MOUNT JACKSON –  The Town Council gave another green light this week for plans to develop the old Triplett School despite protests from neighbors.

The council voted 4-0 on Tuesday in favor of a request to rezone 4.218 acres at 6044 Main St. from business to residential use. Councilmen Dennis Andrick and Donald Pifer abstained from voting because they work for Holtzman Oil Corp. and Todd Holtzman is one of the prospective buyers of the property. The Planning Commission recommended at its meeting Monday after the public hearing that the council approve the rezoning.

The developer, 6044 LLC, applied for the rezoning in order to build residential duplexes on the site. The zoning ordinance allows duplexes as a by-right use on residential property, Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Wednesday.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing jointly with the council on Monday. Some neighbors and adjoining property owners spoke at the public hearing and raised concerns about traffic on nearby Shannon Avenue and Triplett Tech.

Mount Jackson resident Gerald Forsburg stated in an email Wednesday that he opposed the sale of the Triplett School to private developers. The old school building should be converted into a community center and the lot to the rear made into a public green space with a park and ball fields, Forsburg suggests.

“I do not think that Dr. (J.I.) Triplett would be happy to know the land is being sold at a fraction of its market value to a private entity for the development of a brewery and housing,” Forsburg states. “Beyond that, other than a plot plan, there has been no written guarantee that the development will be sold to seniors, we have not seen any landscape or elevations of the buildings nor plans for the brewery.

“The town is rezoning based on speculation, yet again,” Forsburg adds, noting that the purchase of the property is not yet complete.

Fauber explained Wednesday that the development project calls for the construction of an access point to the town’s well and a new street that eliminates the need for the existing gravel driveway also used by a property owner. An engineer said a collection system will collect stormwater and pipe runoff to the Shenandoah River.

The council also set a public hearing for Sept. 11 on the developer’s request to subdivide the 4.218 acres into 16 lots for the duplex project. The Planning Commission and council heard a presentation about the subdivision application at their respective meetings.

The action comes almost a year after the council agreed to sell the Triplett School building and property to Todd Holtzman and Dexter Mumaw for $550,000, which includes $300,000 in prepaid water and sewer tap fees. The council voted at its September meeting to accept a contract from the businessmen who also agreed at the time to pay utility connection fees up front plus $120,000 when installed.

Shenandoah County’s most recent real estate assessment valued the 5.6-acre former school property at $1.61 million. The property should generate tax revenue for the town and county once turned over to private owners.

The property owners indicated a year ago they planned to turn the school building into a theater with a restaurant and a yogurt shop. Now the developers are working with Karl Roulston, part owner of a brewpub in Woodstock, to turn part of the building into a brewery and a restaurant.

The former school property until recently housed the Mount Jackson Volunteer Fire Department until the agency built a new station in town.