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Wetland restoration or mining?

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Zoning board, land owner have disparate viewpoints on Poplar Creek site work

By Damon Lawrence

Dozens of people showed up for Wednesday’s Roane County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting at the courthouse, but there are widely differing views on the activity they were concerned about.
On the board’s agenda was a request for a special use-permit to allow temporary commercial or industrial use on property of LB Services  at 401 Poplar Creek Road.
Board Chairman Greg Howard read a prepared statement at the start of the meeting.
“This is an activity that will go on for several years,” he said. “Therefore, it appears this request before the board is really to rezone this property and not to give an exception.”
Howard said the board cannot rezone property.
“With the information you’ve provided there, I certainly have to concur with your thinking,” Board Member Pete Wright said. “This is an industrial operation, and we’re not entitled to take any action on this matter.”
Wright’s motion that acting on the request would put the board in error was passed 4-1 with Daniel Stracener casting the lone dissenting vote
“We will send it back to the Planning Commission and County Commission for consideration of an industrial use,” Howard said.
“This board could grant a temporary use of this property for soil removal, so it’s not totally out of the bounds of this board,” Stracener said.
In his statement, Howard referred to the plan as soil mining.
“Any type of mining is really an industrial activity,” Howard said. “When it comes to zoning, mining is and in my opinion, should be industrial in nature.”
LB Services, based in Oliver Springs, is owned by Lynn Bumgardner and his wife.
“I have some neighbors that have never spoken to me personally that have a false impression of what I’m trying to do here,” he said.
Bumgardner said the land used to be a wetland, and he wants to restore it.
“I am a friend of the environment,” he said. “I am not the enemy.”
Bumgardner said he wasn’t disappointed in the board’s decision. However, he disputed the notion that he plans to engage in mining at the Poplar Creek Road site.
“In Roane County, when you remove soil, they classify that as mining,” he said. “There is no mining, but unfortunately, they classify soil removal as mining.”
“I live five miles down the road from this site,” Bumgardner added. “This is my neighborhood. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt it.”
Len Hart said he owns adjacent property and supports what Bumgardner is trying to do.
“He just wants to strip the top soil off of it, and they’re trying to prevent him from doing that,” he said. “It’s his property. He can do what he wants.”
Roane County Commissioner Ray Cantrell said he attended Wednesday’s meeting because he wants to be informed about the issue.
“It will go to the Planning Commission, and they will decide whether or not to refer it to us,” Cantrell said. “If it does, I’ll have to study it real close. I don’t know how I’ll vote.”