Letter to the Editor: Mount Jackson business district must remain commercial


At the Mount Jackson Town Council meeting on July 7, the developer of 5935 King St., Todd Holtzman, was granted special approval to convert two of three street-level commercial spaces into apartments.

The intent of the B-1 historic downtown district is the economic and social viability of Mount Jackson. The town code is specific about topics such as mixed-use buildings, apartment buildings, and continuous use exceptions (grandfathering, which is only two years per the code).

The Town Code is also very specific about the granting of special uses permits for apartments in the B-1 zone: “Apartments pursuant to area, yard and other supplemental regulations as set forth in section 66-437.” Section 66-437 outlines requirements for apartments, such as lot size, building coverage, distance between buildings and screening.

Mount Jackson can easily attract small businesses by providing economic incentives similar to other towns, such as assessment deferrals for the first five years or start-up grants from its economic development fund. Perhaps more businesses would come downtown. Rather than investing in speculatively trying to attract big industry, concentration must be on creating a vibrant, walkable and economically viable historic downtown.

The spaces at 5935 King St. have operated as commercial since the 1800s, and are prime historic downtown commercial spaces.

This arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable decision by the council amounts to a micro-spot zoning; undermines the entire intent of the B-1 downtown commercial historic district; removes much needed ground floor commercial space, and therefore business tax revenue from the town and county; disrupts the historic fabric of the community; diminishes available parking for neighboring businesses; sets a legal precedent for all other street-level commercial spaces in the historic downtown core to become apartments; and devalues other businesses in the immediate vicinity.

The Town of Mount Jackson must preserve ground floor commercial space to ensure the present and future economic viability of existing and future businesses, and the historic downtown for future generations to enjoy. This can be done by reversing the previous decision and ceasing to grant future exceptions.

Gerald Forsburg, Mount Jackson