WOODSTOCK — An Edinburg deli and butcher shop is exploring the potential use of a slaughter facility to expand its meat processing and packaging services, although Shenandoah County supervisors and Planning Commission members are hoping for more clarity from the Virginia Department of Transportation regarding the agency’s concern about the store’s entrance.
Wholesome Foods Inc., located at 986 S. Ox Road, made the request for a special-use permit to allow the use of a slaughter facility on its property but is facing an obstacle from VDOT. VDOT has stated that the store’s entrance does not provide adequate sight distance or meet “current geometric commercial entrance standards,” according to county documents.
Commissioners voted 7-0 during Thursday’s meeting to recommend approval of the special-use permit request, but with the intent that a meeting between the applicant — with the support of some county commissioners and supervisors — and VDOT take place before the supervisors' Oct. 26 meeting to clarify the agency’s concerns and explore ways to address them.
A letter from VDOT regarding Wholesome Foods’ request states that to meet the minimum sight distance requirements, the store’s entrance “should be shifted to the south, away from a vertical curve” on Ox Road. The letter adds that the entrance’s present configuration “consists of a very large pull off area that provides no real guidance for ingress vehicles, leading to driver uncertainty and slow maneuvers,” and cars that stop or park in that pull-off area “could block the sight distance for traffic exiting the site.”
According to county planner Tyler Hinkle, Wholesome Foods agreed to a voluntary condition upon the approval of the company’s rezoning request in 2008 to construct a VDOT-approved commercial entrance within six months of the rezoning approval. Hinkle stated during a joint public hearing with county supervisors and commissioners Thursday that, to his knowledge, that commercial entrance was never built.
Wes Pence, who applied for the special-use permit on behalf of Wholesome Foods, stated during the public hearing that VDOT is asking the store to “restrict our access to where you can only leave going one way” to the north, which he noted differs from VDOT’s previously proposed changes to the store’s entrance off of Ox Road. He added that reconfiguring the store’s entrance to meet VDOT’s latest proposal — which would be a costly venture — would “make it very difficult to do business.”
Pence claimed that Wholesome Foods, which also has tractor-trailers entering and exiting the property daily, has experienced only one accident — in the late 1980s — on its property in the last 40 years.
“We’re not against safety but we don’t want to make our place hard for people to get in and out of. That’s my concern,” Pence said.
He added that he didn’t want to spend “more money on the entranceway than I am on the kill floor.”
“This is a business that can work in the county,” said Pence, who noted that Wholesome Foods already performs “85% of a slaughtering operation” now and takes “the hanging beef all the way down” to packaging. “ … We can take agriculture in the area, we can market that. We could work at maybe branding more local beef, working with the farmers. There’s a lot of opportunity here, but for us to build a little 30-by-40(-foot) addition — and I’ve got to put $100,000 in my entranceway — just doesn’t make sense.”
Commissioners were in general agreement that Wholesome Foods being able to expand its meat processing service to include the slaughtering process would be a valuable and much-needed addition to the county’s agricultural business, and several commissioners and supervisors expressed a desire to find a less expensive way for Wholesome Foods to address VDOT’s concerns.
Planning Commission Chairman Gary Lantz noted that lowering the speed limit on Ox Road near Wholesome Foods from the current 45 mph would lessen the sight distance requirements, though Lemuel Hancock, the county’s community development director, stated that a discussion he had with VDOT before Thursday’s public hearing indicated that a speed limit reduction was unlikely.
Lantz, Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Baker and Dennis Morris, the supervisors' representative on the Planning Commission, were among those who offered to join Pence in meeting with VDOT to glean more information and discuss solutions before the special-use permit request goes before the Board of Supervisors later this month.
Lantz and commissioners Mark Dotson, Tommy Miller (virtual), Todd Steiner, Debbie Keller, Eunice Terndrup and supervisors Baker, Brad Pollack (virtual), Karl Roulston, Morris and Tim Taylor attended Thursday’s joint public hearing. Supervisor Josh Stephens was absent.