Shenandoah County is considering a request to rezone almost 100 acres outside of the Town of Strasburg from agricultural to industrial. While the proposed property is adjacent to an active industrial site, the Alliance is urging caution as the county considers this rezoning.
There isn’t enough information on the prospective industry for the county to make an informed decision on whether or not the rezoning will result in an industrial development that would provide the greatest benefit to the community.
The existing agricultural zoning provides a buffer between the current industrial use and established rural residents. Since we don’t know what the proposed industry will be:
- we don’t know how much water it will use.
- we don’t know how much traffic there will be.
- we don’t know what type of jobs it will provide.
Changing the zoning without better information about potential future uses will severely diminish the county’s ability to ensure the industry is the best fit for the county and a good neighbor to rural residents. Approval of this blind rezoning serves the needs of the developer over the needs of the citizens of Shenandoah County.
Based on the water and traffic estimates provided by the current applicant and their properties in other counties, it seems highly likely this Shenandoah County parcel would be developed for industrial warehousing—an industry that brings more truck traffic to I-81 and wouldn’t provide the kind of high paying, skilled jobs the county needs.
The county is eager to secure new industrial development, and smaller counties, like Shenandoah, do have a harder time recruiting candidates. However, the county can and should be selective. There is a limited amount of land zoned or even appropriate for industrial development in the county so we should only consider rezonings when there is a proposal that provides the greatest benefit for the county and the community. New industry should meet our water and traffic criteria AND must provide good high paying jobs.
Rather than approving a blind rezoning, here’s what county supervisors need to consider:
- The Comprehensive Plan places a high value on maintaining our rural and agricultural character. The county has space available in the existing industrial park and other areas already zoned for business/industrial usages and has invested time and effort in getting those improved for more immediate development. Removal of land from agriculture is a permanent decision and should be made as a last resort for only the most ideal opportunities.
- The 2019 Strategic Economic Development Plan Update outlines five target industries: Manufacturing and Production, IT & Communications, Hospitality & Tourism, Agribusiness and Healthcare. The county should look at that list and determine which of these industries are best suited for this site, and then ensure the property is marketed for only those industrial uses.
- Unemployment in the county is very low at 2.8%, so the county should ensure any new industry provides jobs with high wages that will offer an alternative to residents currently commuting out of the county to work.
The Planning Commission already held a public hearing on the rezoning and community members showed up to speak in opposition to the project. Despite the opposition to the rezoning, the Planning Commission voted to approve the rezoning, so now it goes to the Board of Supervisors, without further public input.
The Board of Supervisors will vote on the rezoning on Tues, Oct 25 at 7pm. There isn’t another opportunity for public comment, but now is the time to let the supervisors know they shouldn’t approve the rezoning and the property’s current agricultural zoning should remain unless and until there is a compelling and specific proposal justifiable for a different use.