Local

This wasn't part of the plan

Milton Finley has a miniature horse farm on Boyd Road, which intersects Great Halls Highway. Chester County Councilman Alan Clack wants to move his business, D&C Trucking, to a different location on Great Falls Highway, which has upset some local homeowners. The front of the D&C building is seen below.
Milton Finley has a miniature horse farm on Boyd Road, which intersects Great Halls Highway. Chester County Councilman Alan Clack wants to move his business, D&C Trucking, to a different location on Great Falls Highway, which has upset some local homeowners. The front of the D&C building is seen below.

CHESTER -- The controversy surrounding a Chester City councilman's plans to move his trucking company into a residential area isn't just about upset neighbors who think a politician is getting a break.

It's also a debate about how the county should develop.

Next week, the Chester County Council is expected to place its final stamp on rezoning 10 acres off Great Falls Highway so City Councilman Alan Clack can move his family's trucking company there.

The company now sits 3.7 miles away on the same highway. Clack said he's moving the business because his rent doubled last month and the land down the road is family property that he'll be able to purchase at a good price.

County leaders who support Clack insist the county should accommodate his business, D&C Trucking, because it employs nearly 50 people and Chester is tied for the third-highest unemployment rate in the state.

But many area homeowners don't want the trucking company for a neighbor, especially one that won't be creating jobs.

Some say D&C's 31 tractor trailers will bring excessive noise, traffic and pollution. They want Clack to move his business to land that is already zoned for industry.

"Why should we have to sacrifice our livelihood for his benefit?" asked Andrew Douglas, who lives near the site. "I don't have a problem with a person wanting to be successful ... but why can't you take it in an industrial area and do what you have to do?"

Chester County developed a plan in the late 1990s that outlines where different kinds of homes, businesses and plants can be built. In 2005, the county's planning commission worked with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments to update that plan, which was designed to last 20 years.

D&C Trucking doesn't fit the county's plan for the area where Clack wants to move. And when Clack approached the planning commission about the matter in January, the commission voted 6-0 to deny his request.

The County Council, however, made an unusual move when it overturned that decision on Feb. 4 by a 3-1 vote. Councilmen Alex Oliphant and Joe Branham abstained from voting on the matter because Oliphant does business with D&C and Branham owns land across the road from the site.

Council members Mary Guy, Archie Lucas and Tommy Martin supported the move. The lone opposing vote came from Brad Jordan, who said he was concerned about allowing an industrial section in a residential area.

Planning officials said the council hasn't overturned a commission decision since 2004.

"Chester's been through a lot and paid a lot of money and spent a lot of time and effort to say what goes where," said Mack Paul, the county's planning director. "If it was one little vegetable stand, that'd be one thing. But that's a trucking firm."

Paul's office enforces the county's zoning rules. He fears that allowing Clack to move his business will open the door for other industries to come into residential communities.

"When does it stop?" he asked. "It's like a little crack in the dam. If you put one out there, and the next one wants to come ... how do you say no?"

Lucas disagrees with the land use plan's emphasis on the S.C. 9 industrial corridor. He said the plan is too restrictive.

"Chester County consists of more than (highway) No. 9," he said. "We only got one four-lane highway in Chester County, friend, other than (Interstate) 77. And you ain't gonna put it on it. C'mon. We're 500 and something square miles, and that's the only place we can put something like that?"

County Councilman Tommy Martin also doesn't buy the argument that Clack's business should be forced to locate in an industrial zone.

"Who can afford the land down there?," he asked, referring to the S.C. 9 corridor.

Both Martin and Lucas deny their votes have anything to do with favoritism. They also disagree with opponents' claims about potential environmental hazards.

Clack says he simply wants to save money. His grandmother died last March, and her estate belongs to her five living children. He plans to buy the property from them.

The company office will be his grandmother's house, Clack said. An old barn will be torn down, the driveway will be widened and a small shop with two bays will be built to work on the trucks. He said he'll add trees for a buffer and follow all environmental regulations.

Clack dismisses the arguments made by some property owners.

"They said something about premature babies," he said. "My dad's been driving trucks for 40 years. I come out 10 pounds."

As for traffic concerns, Clack said most of his trucks travel to other states. He said four trucks run local routes, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon.

"If my trucks are sitting out here on my lot running, I'm not making money," he said.

One argument made by residents is that Clack's trucks will rumble down nearby Boyd Road en route to Winnsboro, frightening animals and causing wrecks. But Clack insists his trucks are too heavy to travel over a bridge on that road. He said he'll have words with any trucker who uses Boyd Road.

Although he said he could bring 100 supporters to the next council meeting, Clack said he's not looking for a fight.

Still, questions about Chester County's future have morphed into a dispute, one that many didn't want to see.

"All of this is a very unfortunate incident," Martin said. "It's pit friends and family and citizens against one another."

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