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‘Soul searching’ leads to subdivision denial

After being denied in December, David Ruckman was as good as his word. The undaunted developer returned to Lanesville’s town council in January to see if the newly-elected board would yield more support for extending sewer service to the proposed 359-home Bittersweet Subdivision in Floyd County.
The board’s only new member, councilman Michael Stilger, moved to reopen sewer contract talks with Bittersweet developers at the Jan. 12 meeting; however, saying he had done a lot of research and ‘soul searching,’ Stilger blocked negotiations Monday night by joining council president Herb Schneider in opposing the development.
Before an audience of nearly 40, the council and representatives of Bittersweet were deliberating details of a contract being drafted by town attorney Gordon Ingle using feedback obtained through a series of meetings with representatives of Bittersweet, Lanesville and Harrison County.
Ingle said some items needed approval so the process could move forward. Agreeing to some components of the contract did not obligate the town to provide sewer service to Bittersweet, he said.
The need to obtain five rights-of-way and the possibility of using eminent domain to obtain those resulted in discussion within the council and some vocal opposition from audience members.
Don Hamblen, who abstained from voting to discontinue talks with Bittersweet in December, made a motion to approve one of the contract items. Ingle said that he would prefer the board to consider the eight items as a whole, but it was the board’s decision.
Hamblen was generally supportive of Bittersweet. He said he had weighed the subdivision’s pros and cons for three months, and that growth and the subdivision were ‘inevitable.’ ‘If it’s done right, growth can be good,’ he added.
Ray Brewer, the former town councilman who introduced the initial motion to cease negotiating sewer service for Bittersweet, voiced disagreement and presented a petition of 62 signatures among 50 homes.
‘Change is inevitable. Having to accept 360 homes, not even in our county ‘ I’m not getting it,’ Brewer said, citing traffic, watershed issues and the former council’s opposition as reasons to refuse the development.
Facing a continued denial, Brewer said, would force developers to reintroduce Bittersweet to the Floyd County Plan Commission and face further restriction. Most of the audience applauded.
Stilger said that he apologized to anyone who had put work into the Bittersweet project, but, after weighing all the information, he said, ‘I have no interest in Bittersweet whatsoever.’
‘We are still wanting to work with you,’ Schneider said.
‘I just want to see a decent subdivision. I would like to see it improve somewhat. The density is what scared me off.’
‘Our density is no different than (John) Blocker’s (Sunrise Ridge subdivision in Lanesville),’ Ruckman said.
‘It was the size then,’ Schneider said.
The proposed subdivision has drawn a lot of attention outside of Lanesville.
Bittersweet’s 359 homes were approved for 176.5 acres off Smith Creek Road and received a variance on lot size from Floyd County. The provisional approval was contingent on receiving sewer service from Lanesville.
Harrison County asked Lanesville to make certain requests of Bittersweet developers and provided the advice of county engineer Darin Duncan (Lanesville also consulted its own engineer, David Derrick).
The Harrison County Commissioners had also discussed contributing funding to infrastructure improvements which would be used by Bittersweet but could also benefit future development in the surrounding area.
‘I think maybe this will send a message to some of these out-of-county developers,’ said Fred Cammack, the president of Corydon’s town council. ‘(Developers) aren’t going to have the ability to run down to Harrison County and take advantage of their infrastructure.
‘I think this county is a little slow, and I think this town is a little slow on trying to steer development into areas where infrastructure is in place or the ability is there to put it into place,’ Cammack said.