Harrisonburg City will continue to enforce the 50-person maximum for social gatherings. 

This week’s city council meeting discussed an increase in adoptions at the Harrisonburg SPCA, changes in landscape and an update on the city’s occupancy ordinance. 

SPCA faces more adoptions thanks to COVID-19 

The Rockingham-Harrisonburg branch of the SPCA has faced a unique year after dealing with the added hurdle of COVID-19. The organization presented its end of the year report to City Council, highlighting changes in adoption rates and pet-owner geography. 

The presentation said that necessary cancelations of fundraising events created some difficulties for the SPCA this year. Through the impact of COVID-19, the organization has had significant operational increases and adoption rates rose 20%. 

An appointment system was adopted by the facility in order to maximize safety during the pandemic. It noted that there’s been a decrease in dog intakes this year and that the foster system has expanded to meet demands for adoption.  

The local SPCA branch reported that 867 residents assisted with intake and outcomes of these animals, there were 214 lost-and-found reports filed and 135 pets reunited with owners. 

In 2020, the SPCA had 2,307 and 2,007 positive outcomes, which is a much higher ratio than previous years. The presenter said that the organization sees this year as successful overall, even through the many challenges it faced. 

Changes in the city landscape

The Council heard multiple requests that had to do with changing the layout of the city on a micro level. 

Waseem, Nadeem and Sohail Alfridi requested a special use permit in order to turn a single-family dwelling into multiple-family dwellings at 728 Foley Road. The house isn’t suitable as a single-family dwelling, and the owners said it’d work better as a multiple-dwelling building. 

The Council voted to pass this special permit use, with George Hirschmann being the sole dissenter. Hirschmann asked if the dwellings would be available for students as well. 

Alfridi wants to renovate the building into four fully functioning living spaces. Parking would be moved to the back of the building in order to accommodate these renovations. All renovations other than the parking would be internal, and there’d be minimal change in current flood plans, which was a concern when moving the parking lot. 

The new building would be aimed at renting to families, rather than students, Alfridi said on a phone call. 

Another request was made from Trenton, Inc. and Bernard, LC, two related entities. The request was for the council to decide to close a 7,245 sq. ft. public alley located between 435, 445, 457 and 473 S. Main St. and 270, 276, 282 and 288 S. Liberty St. The entities feel that because it’s a dead end alley, it can be better used if they were given the opportunity to own it.

The organizations see the alley as valuable land and said that selling it could benefit the city by generating $70,000 for land that currently isn’t serving a purpose. They said that closing the alley would streamline future development opportunities and keep the city from having to maintain the piece of public property. 

One caller argued that public land shouldn’t be given up. 

Eric Campbell, Harrisonburg city manager, said that he supports the staff recommendation in this case. 

The Council voted unanimously in favor of the request to use the alley. 

Ordinance update

Harrisonburg City has been under a 50-person maximum for social gathering for the past few months in the face of COVID-19. The Council regularly addresses the ordinance and discusses any possible changes. A vote to keep the current Harrisonburg ordinance passed unanimously among Council members.

A recommendation to consider changing the ordinance to align with the one Gov. Ralph Northam (D) just passed was brought up. His ordinance limits gatherings to 25 people. 

For the time being, the Council voted to allow the ordinance to lapse and not take further action.  

Contact Eleanor Weber at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.