MOUNT JACKSON — The Mount Jackson Town Council on Tuesday unanimously created a new position that will help with planning, zoning and development.

This comes after the Planning Commission on Monday recommended that the Town Council approve the position. Mount Jackson Town Manager Neil Showalter said the new position would be a big help to the staff.

"I don't think it comes to news to any of you that the town is growing," Showalter said. "And it's growing more complex than it's ever been. And along with that, the demands on the staff have grown and become more complex than they've ever been."

Showalter said the personnel committee met recently and came up with the idea to create the position, which would mostly be responsible for reviewing zoning applications. However, Showalter said the duties would also include spending time promoting and expanding the town's recreation, cultural and entertainment activities.

For the last several years, the town has used the Bridgewater-based consulting firm The Berkeley Group. Showalter said the town spends roughly $60,000 annually for the Berkeley Group. Showalter said they would still use The Berkeley Group, but not as much. He explained the town could use some of those savings to pay the new employee. 

Showalter said a $40,000-$60,000 salary is being considered, and the town could use some of this year's contingency money to help fund the salary. Next year, he said the salary would be paid through the general fund.

Showalter said an ideal candidate would have a degree or equivalent experience in town planning, zoning and development. He noted that New Market created a similar position earlier this year and it seems to be working out well.

The Mount Jackson Town Council also unanimously approved paying Dave's Landscaping $4,000 to trim some of the trees and bushes at Union Church and Cemetery in Mount Jackson. Showalter said they need to be done twice a year.

"The estimate is $2,000 each time — the spring and fall in order to do it properly," he said. "You can't take one big whack and not injure the trees involved."

Showalter said tourism funds will be used to pay for the trimming.

The Town Council also unanimously voted to prohibit vending or food trucks at the town parking lot, the Town Park and the Mayor's Park. The only exception is if a town event is being held. 

Showalter said he hasn't allowed it over the years, but never consulted with the Town Council regarding their thoughts. He said food trucks are allowed on private properties if property owners agree to it. 

Robert Whitehurst showed up at both the Planning Commission and the Town Council meetings to give an informal speech about the next phase of his solar farm. He said the first phase is almost complete and the second and third phases will begin sometime after that.

Showalter said the application for the fourth phase is still being reviewed, but they are hopeful to have a full presentation at the Planning Commission's Oct. 4 meeting and Town Council's Oct. 12 meeting. 

If all goes as expected, Showalter said the Planning Commission and town would likely hold a Nov. 3 joint public hearing regarding Whitehurst's fourth phase. 

The Town Council also held a closed session and Showalter wrote in a Wednesday email that no further action was taken after the closed session. 

All of the Town Council members, Dennis Andrick, Judy Fultz, Bonnie Good, Whitney Miller, Roger Rudy, Rod Shepherd and Mount Jackson Mayor Donnie Pifer attended Tuesday's meeting in person.

All of the Planning Commission members, Andrick, Chair Larry Ambrose, Evelyn Burner, Jim Hines, Anita Miller and Pifer attended Monday's meeting in person.

Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at