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Damascus couple plan fiber mill

January 25, 2012

Adam and Elizabeth Thumann plan to open a fiber mill in Calkins and sought a conditional-use permit from the Damascus Township Board on January 16.

The couple are leaving other career pursuits and turning to an agriculture-based style of life in which they will prepare raw wool from sheep and other fiber-producing animals for the production of roving and batts. They were seeking a permitted-use permit to conduct their business in a residential zone. “Light manufacturing is allowed in a residential zone if certain conditions are adhered to,” said Ed Lagarenne, township zoning officer.

The supervisors approved the conditional-use permit but it came with a condition: “As long as the operation remains small, it’s okay,” said chairman Jeff Dexter. “If they are going to increase anything, they have to get permission from the Department of Environmental Protection and then come back to this board for another conditional- use permit.”

“Our operation will be very small and will not use a lot of water or cause much waste water run-off,” said Elizabeth. “The space for the operation is also very small and would not be conducive to any expansions.”

The couple intends to work with local sheep farmers who need the operation to process the raw wool by cleaning it and creating batts and roving, which adds value to their product.
“There are a number of sheep raisers within our community,” she said. “We don’t have to go very far to service them. It’s difficult for them to go far away to get this washing done. We’re right here and that should be an advantage to them.”
At the meeting of the supervisors, Thumanns’ neighbors expressed concern that the production might cause problems with their water and with runoff.

“I did some research and found that wool processing uses chemicals,” said Jeff Gullone. “I’m concerned with the environmental impact on homes in a residential zone. We also share a well with them. It is in the deed. The well is on their property and we’re worried.”

“We don’t see any real problems that can’t be solved,” Adam said. “We would be willing to drill another well and even drill one on their property that they can use if there’s a problem. Jeff and Maggie are good neighbors and we won’t do anything they wouldn’t like.”