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Lanesville shocker: trustees deny sewer to 359-home development

It was the result of months of deliberation, but when Ray Brewer’s final motion as a member of the Lanesville Town Council was made Monday night at the end of the last regular meeting of the year, even the town attorney and clerk-treasurer were taken by surprise.
Explaining his position with passion, Brewer moved to cease negotiating a contract to provide wastewater treatment service to the proposed 359-home Bittersweet Subdivision. The motion was seconded by President Herb Schneider, who also made an emotional appeal to an audience of about 15 which did not contain a representative of Bittersweet.
Phase one of Bittersweet is scheduled to come before the Floyd County Plan Commission on Monday. Kathy Smith, assistant to Plan Director Beverly Smith, said approval is contingent upon acquiring sewer service from Lanesville.
‘Personally, the way I see it, they didn’t meet the conditions for their conditional approval. They are back at Square One,’ said Paul Riggs, a voting member of the Floyd plan commission.
Schneider, who will begin his second term in January, said he would no longer consider Bittersweet in its current form. He did say that he would consider a different plan should the subdivision be reconfigured.
‘Any change in that subdivision would be a new subdivision. At this point we are not accepting any new applications,’ Riggs said. He added that Bittersweet was granted a variance on lot size, but that, too, was contingent on sewer service.
Floyd County is now devising stricter requirements on minimum lot sizes for homes on septic systems. Proposed are 24,000-square-foot lots, approved on a lot-by-lot basis by the county health department.
‘After this moratorium passes or is extended, they may or may not need to meet the new subdivision requirements,’ Riggs said.
‘My understanding of the ordinance at this point … they would probably have to go into the sewer business,’ Riggs said.
Riggs opposed granting Bittersweet’s existing variance.
Earlier Monday night the next contract discussion meeting was confirmed (it was to be held Friday), and the town’s attorney, Gordon Ingle, had submitted his second rough draft of the contract.
Despite the timing, David Ruckman, a spokesperson and partner in Bittersweet, said during an interview yesterday that he wasn’t surprised by the board’s decision.
He said that the members of the board he approached a year and a half ago were supportive of Bittersweet. ‘We’ll have a new board in January, and we’ll be back to talk with the new board in January,’ Ruckman said.
‘I have already developed three communities that are very similar to the Bittersweet Community,’ he said, specifically citing Brookstone in Georgetown and Plum Rum in Clarksville.
He said opponents of Bittersweet are welcome to drive through Brookstone ‘and see that it is not some monster,’ he said.
‘We are going to continue with our plan to develop it, regardless of what Lanesville does. People just don’t like change until after it occurs,’ he said.
When it appeared all board business had been concluded, Brewer asked to take the floor. Both his hands were heavily bandaged because, he explained, his 14-year-old son’s mattress had caught fire from a candle last week and Brewer instinctively attempted to snuff out the flames by hand.
He praised the efforts of the Lanesville Volunteer Fire Dept. and said his family is OK, but then he abruptly changed the subject.
Mentioning the warning label on the painkillers he had been prescribed for his burns, Brewer said, ‘I think every development project ought to come with a warning label.’ Bittersweet’s, he said, should read ‘Caution, harmful or fatal if swallowed.’
Brewer addressed traffic, water retention and changes in Lanesville’s atmosphere before making a motion to ‘kill’ Bittersweet, which would be located in Floyd County on Smith Creek Road and the county line.
‘This is my last meeting, my last swan song, and I regret I haven’t spoken out before,’ said Brewer, who did not run for reelection in November.
‘I like to keep an open mind,’ Councilman Don Hamblen said, adding that he thought the board had agreed to wait until January before making any decisions regarding the development. He said he could not second the motion.
Schneider, the last member of the three-man board, said, ‘If we lose one son or daughter because we didn’t fix (the intersection of S.R. 62 and Smith Creek Road) right,’ any gain made by the town from Bittersweet wouldn’t be worthwhile.
He said improvements at that intersection would be ‘dependent on one man from the state saying yes or no. I don’t want to leave it up to him.
‘This has sucked the air out of all we’ve tried to do. And this is all for Dave Ruckman. It’s not for Lanesville,’ Schneider said.
When he concluded, ‘… and for that reason I am voting with Ray,’ the audience applauded.
Hamblin voiced some concerns regarding Bittersweet, but said, ‘We kind of talked about holding off until January. For that reason, I’m going to have to abstain.’
When the meeting was over, Schneider said, ‘We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but things kept coming up. Finally, we came to the realization that it’s either now or never.’
In other business:
‘ A public auction conducted by Haggard Auction Services on Saturday at noon will feature a lone piece of property: Lanesville’s reservoir. With the exception of two outbuildings on which the town plans to place an easement of three years or less, the town no longer uses the property.
A joint appraisal valued the property at $200,000.
The town may accept as low as 90 percent of the appraised value. Less than that must be advertised.
Ingle, who was granted permission to participate in the bidding, didn’t feel it was necessary. ‘I think you’re going to be pleased,’ he told the council.
Haggard Auction Services hosted two open houses, with more than a dozen potential bidders. The auctioneers will be available at 10 a.m. on Saturday.