Zoning request stirs opposition

CHESTER -- The Chester County Council's attempt to allow a Chester City Councilman to move his family's trucking company into a rural community has ignited a backlash from nearby residents, many of whom are furious that county leaders are overturning a unanimous recommendation by the county's planning commission.

On Monday, for the second time in two weeks, the County Council voted 3-1 to rezone a 10-acre site on Great Falls Highway where D&C Trucking -- which is owned by City Councilman Alan Clack and his sister -- hopes to build a shipping hub for the company's 31 trucks.

Some residents fear the move will bring heavy truck traffic to their area, which they describe as a farming community where neighbors value a quiet, bucolic lifestyle. Noise, pollution and lower property values are other fears. Some wonder if the council's decision has more to do with name recognition than public welfare.

"Nobody's saying the company has to leave Chester," said Brian Knight, who lives near the site where the trucking company wants to build. The company could move to land that's already zoned for that kind of industry, Knight said, but he feels Clack's notoriety as a city councilman influenced the county's decision.

The controversy emerged Feb. 4 when the council made a rare move by opting to reverse a 6-0 vote by the planning commission, which denied the company's rezoning request.

The council voted the same way Monday night. A third vote would give the company the rezoning it needs.

Council members Archie Lucas, Tommy Martin and Mary Guy have voted to overturn the commission's decision, saying the county should accommodate a business that employs nearly 50 people.

In interviews with The Herald, Lucas and Martin denied the move had anything to do with favoritism.

"When this thing started, I didn't even know Alan Clack," Lucas said. "That blows that teapot."

Clack said the three county leaders looked at the jobs his company brings to the area -- not his name -- when they made their decision.

"We've got a lot smarter people on County Council than (would use) the buddy-buddy system," he said. "There's a lot of people in this county that have no idea who I am."

Councilmen Alex Oliphant and Joe Branham have abstained from voting on the matter. Oliphant said he's not voting because he does business with D&C, and Branham said he won't vote because his family owns land across the road from the site.

The lone voice of opposition on the council has been Brad Jordan, who fears what he called "spot zoning."

"I don't think that's a good idea," he said during Monday's meeting. "My concern is, this is one industrial section that we're going to be rezoning in an area that's primarily residential."

That's exactly how Sharon Furr feels. Furr's family raises beef cattle on a farm along Boyd Road, a narrow stretch she fears will be used by big trucks traveling to Winnsboro.

"I'm asking you to listen to what zoning (the planning commission) said about the area," she told council members this week.

Opponents also presented the council with a seven-page petition signed by more than 80 people.

But Clack said his business -- which is 3.7 miles from the site on the same highway -- has never received any complaints from neighbors.

D&C rents a facility now, Clack said, and moving down the road will save the company money. The property being eyed is 90 acres of family land, although the trucking company would use only 10 acres. Clack said his father started the trucking business in 1991, and the company was actually housed on the site in question until it moved to its current site in 2001.

"I'm going down on family land where I grew up and played when I was small," he said. "I'm not going to go down there and trash the land."

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for March 3.