TODAY'S NEWS

Whitehurst named to planning commission

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

MOUNT JACKSON — A Mount Jackson resident at the center of a debate over whether to build an industrial site in town has been appointed to the town’s Planning Commission.

Robert Whitehurst became the group’s newest member on July 1 when Mayor J.G. “Bucky” Miller cast the deciding vote to break Town Council’s 3-3 deadlock.

Council members Whitney Miller, Ken Hackenbracht and Roger Rudy voted against the appointment, while Donald Pifer, Dennis Andrick and Rod Shepherd voted for it.

Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Whitehurst was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the commission’s former Vice Chair Larry Hand, who moved to Florida in June.

Council voted during its annual organizational meeting, during which it appoints new officials to replace those whose terms ended with the previous fiscal year.

Whitehurst and his sister, Eleanor, own 712 acres of land along Georgetown and Turkey Knob roads that they want the town to use to attract a major corporation. Whitehurst declined to comment on his appointment on Tuesday.

The proposed site has been a point of contention for the town since discussion began in March 2015. Supporters say a corporation would bring needed jobs and tax revenue, while opponents say it would damage the area’s existing infrastructure and landscape.

Council annexed 576 acres of the Whitehursts’ land from Shenandoah County into the town in August, with the condition that council wait until after the town’s Comprehensive Plan is updated later this year before discussing whether to rezone the land from agricultural to light industrial.

Council rezoned 136 acres that were already in town from agricultural to light industrial in April 2015.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Hackenbracht said Whitehurst’s appointment constitues a conflict of interest for council and the Planning Commission.

Bonnie Good, the commission’s chairwoman, shared that view but said the group can work through any potential conflicts.

“We will address that with Mr. Whitehurst and I’m sure he would be willing to step back [during votes on the industrial site],” she said. “We can manage that within our group just like committees everywhere do.”

Miller said he understands the misgivings over Whitehurst’s appointment, but that he trusts him to help the town.

“He’s a very smart individual and he brings a lot of strength to the Planning Commission,” Miller said. “I’m willing to give him a chance.”

Town resident Evelyn Burner also ran for the commission seat but didn’t receive a nomination from council, Hackenbracht said.



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