84 Lumber gets go-ahead from county to expand

It was enough.
Any more than one member of Sussex County Council voting in opposition at the Aug. 16 council meeting, and 84 Lumber’s plans for expansion in Clarksville would have run aground.

Council Member Dale Dukes was out — his own Dukes Lumber being a direct competitor, he’d recused himself.

That meant 84 Lumber needed a 3-1 majority — and they got it, with a4-0 vote.

The bulldozers won’t be rolling just yet, but having obtained the conditional use (on 5.8 acres of land to the west of the existing business), the company’s plans have moved nine leagues toward completion — especially considering that the county Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission had suggested council deny the request (by a 3-2 vote), just six months ago.

Council first considered the application in April, about a month after the P&Z made its recommendation. The company had offered additional concessions since then, including the offer to place 73 acres of adjacent land into conservation.

Contractors turned out in support, opposite an equal number of residents peeved about what they considered lack of consideration for nearby residents over the years (specifically, traffic, noise, lights, exhaust, trash and general unsightliness).

And the neighbors’ attorney noted what may have been a main root of the opposition — the locals had understood a much quieter sort of business would be moving in, when the land was rezoned commercial back in 1993.

(As 84 Lumber’s attorney pointed out, the company hadn’t appeared on the scene until two years later. However, council members may have recognized lingering enmity when, in 2003, they denied 84 Lumber’s request for additional rezoning as commercial.)

The request for conditional use was better received, perhaps buoyed by an attached list of self-imposed conditions — deed restrictions ensuring a buffer between 84 Lumber and adjacent lands owned by the Hammond family, the promise of acoustical dampening materials around the truck parking area, restrictions on hours of operation, and landscaping and aesthetic improvements all around.

Council returned to that list on Aug. 16 for a bit of fine tuning (for instance, they added that the company would have to close its side of the shared entrance with the Parsell Funeral Home within 60 days of occupancy at the building proposed for contractors’ retail).

Having read those conditions into the record, council members reached rare concord, all four agreeing the expansion plans as improved would indeed rectify many of the existing problems at the site.

However, 84 Lumber representatives will still need to clear their site plans with the P&Z. And if the spirit of late Chair John “Jack” Allen lives on, they’ll likely hear an echo of his good-natured grumble — that if council wanted to buck P&Z’s recommendations, council should just go ahead and handle the plan reviews, too.