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Friday, December 12, 2008

Old Friends is a home for retired Thoroughbreds

Story and photos by Ashley Camblin
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Horse racing is a multi-million dollar industry that continues to grow and attract fans both nationally and internationally. Once thoroughbreds have finished their racing careers what happens to them? Where do these beautiful, retired horses end up?

Southwest of Georgetown on Paynes Depot Road, six miles from Midway, is a farm for retired race horses called Old Friends. It was started by Michael Blowen in 2003 as a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned thoroughbreds. After news broke in 2002 of the presumed slaughter of 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand, Blowen wanted to save at-risk horses.

“We knew such a death must never happen again,” Blowen says on the Web site for Old Friends. “And so the plan became to bring 'at risk' racehorses, those whose racing and breeding careers had come to an end, to Old Friends, provide them with the dignified retirement they deserve.”

Old Friends has 30 horses at the Dream Chase Farm. Old Friends is the only retirement and rescue facility that houses stallions, and there are 15 on the farm. Some stallions include Ferdinand son Bullintheheather, and Williamstown (left, with tour guide Charlie Brown), a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

The farm is also home to four mares and five geldings. The mare with a star-studded pedigree is Bonnie’s Poker, the dam of 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm. The most popular gelding is Popcorn Deelites (photo at top), who was one of the many horses used as Seabiscuit, in the movie "Seabiscuit." The scenes with Popcorn Deelites are all the starting gate scenes and the race with War Admiral.

Amanda Bennett came from Lexington to go on a tour of Old Friends. “I love horses and had a horse when I was growing up,” she said. “I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful horses and learning about each of them and their racing careers. My favorite horse was Popcorn Deelites, or Seabiscuit.”

The connection with the movie was a draw for Jonathan Clark, a visitor from Indiana. “Seabiscuit is a great movie and one of my favorites,” he said. “My fiancé told me that Old Friends was home to one of the stars of Seabiscuit, so I had to come see it for myself.”

The mission of Old Friends is to provide a safe harbor and dignified retirement for Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have ended. Visitors are encouraged to come see the retirees. Tours are free and open to the public, but donations are always gladly accepted.
Old Friends, at 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., offers daily tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. year round. Tours take about an hour to an hour and a half. The mantra of Old Friends “Guests come out to see a few old racehorses, but they leave touched by the heart of a Thoroughbred hero.”

Council endorses Sunday liquor sales, wants more information and support regarding airport ads

Story and photo by Sarah Rayan
UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council again put off restaurateur Bill Van Den Dool’s request to fund advertising of the city at the Lexington airport, but endorsed his plea for a letter asking Woodford County Fiscal Court to legalize alcohol sales on Sundays.

Council members unanimously decided at the Dec. 1 meeting that Mayor Tom Bozarth would send a letter to the county, after some uncertainty about what authority they had in the matter.

Van Den Dool (in photo at council meeting) owns The Black Tulip, a restaurant he opened last September. The main reason he gave for his question to serve alcohol on Sundays was competition from nearby towns with Sunday sales. Van Den Dool said he “went to the fiscal court and they were favorable about the idea.”

The members heard a request, again, from Van Den Dool to support funding to advertise the city at the Bluegrass Airport. The council indicated that it would agree after seeing a more detailed plan for the ads and commitment from more members of the merchants’ association.

The council voted unanimously to issue bonds for St. Leo’s Catholic Church to build a school and related facilities just outside Versailles, nine miles from Midway. The council issued the bonds because Versailles and Woodford County did not have enough revenue-bond authority to cover the costs.

Up to $8 million in bonds will be issued to build the facility on Huntertown Road. According to Becky Mayton, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, it is constitutional for a city to issue bonds for a church, and in another locality as long as the two have “significant ties.” She said 135 residents of Midway are parishioners of St. Leo’s, and several were in the audience. Mayton represents Central Bank, which she said will buy the bonds, and the Lexington Diocese.

Council members also heard first reading of an ordinance setting policies for extending water and sewer services to formerly unserved customers, and passed an ordinance that formally assigned the role of city alcoholic beverage control administrator to the mayor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas in Midway: Quieter than the malls

Story and photos by Kelly Wiley
UK School of Journalism

With fresh snow on the ground and McGee, the community cat, scurrying around looking for a place to get warm, shop owners stayed inside the warm confines of their stores Saturday. However, even with the cold weather, shop owner still had a reason to be cheerful ­– it’s Christmas time.

Christmas in Midway means many things, but for most store owners it means an increase in customers. “A lot of people like the come here to get away from the mall. It’s not real crowded and it’s a relaxing atmosphere with old Victorian buildings, especially when there is a little snow it kind of reminds you of a Victorian Christmas,” said Bill Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store.

Penn said he sells a lot of handmade jewelry and crafts, along with a bookstore upstairs full mostly of books by Kentucky authors focusing on Kentucky history, with some children’s books packed in there as well. He has owned the Historic Midway Museum Store for 12 years. He and his wife moved to Midway from Indiana because of their love for museum stores, he said.

“We always liked museum stores. When you go into a museum there will always be a museum shop and they always sell educational things related to history,” Penn said.

Being a museum store, it is only fitting to have a museum, which they do. In a room to the left of the entrance there is a smaller than normal museum containing a timeline of Midway history with pictures and artifacts to go with it.

Penn said they have tried to persuade the City Council to purchase one of the vacant buildings along Main Street and turn it into a museum, but they have been turned down. So, for the time being, the history of Midway can be found in the extra room of Penn’s Historic Midway Museum Store.

At the end of the road is Celtic Trends, which sells mostly items imported from Ireland and Great Britain that are Irish or Celtic themed. Clare McCarthy, owner of Celtic Trends and an Ireland native, said Christmas in Midway is better than bigger cities like Lexington because stores are not overly crowded and most times there is always a parking spot that doesn’t require you to walk a mile to your destination.

“We have quite a few Midway residents (who shop here), but the majority are outside from Lexington, Cincinnati and Louisville,” McCarthy said. “They come here with the intention to shop or for the restaurants.”

On Midway Street, commonly called Railroad Street, there are a few restaurants on both sides of the tracks that cut through town. Out-of-towners can enjoy a variety of restaurants like Bistro La Belle, Quirk Café and Coffee and Darlin Jean’s Apple Cobbler, but McCarthy said the restaurant that attracts the most customers is the Black Tulip, known for its fine wine and Kentucky food.

In the same row as Celtic Trends and the Historic Midway Museum Store is SaopWerks. Just as unique as the rest of the stores, SoapWerks sales soap, candles and jewelry all made by family members and friends of owner Kathy Werking.

“My mother makes the soap, which is all natural. I do soy wax candles. My sister makes the pillows out of old linens, then my brother in law makes salt and pepper shakers … those are out of old chair and table parts,” Werking said. “What we really try to do is do natural products and recycling and repurposing.”

In the past, Werking used her store as way to raise the money necessary to adopt her daughter Leah from a Beijing orphanage. Less than a year ago, Werking said she added to the family with her “recent addition,” Yulan. “Chinese adoptions, well any international adoption is pretty expensive, and, so, I did a lot of fundraising from selling my products,” Werking said. “And people responded really, really nicely.”

As Werking gets ready to close shop and her girls sit making jewelry, outside the snow is still falling and McGee has found some form of shelter near a Christmas tree outside one the many specialty shops on Railroad Street.

Midway Station project awaits technical review

By Matt Jordan
UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Redevelopment of the Midway Station industrial park into a residential and commercial community is moving according to the expected timeline, Mayor Tom Bozarth said this week.

Bozarth said now that the city council has voted to rezone the property to allow for the construction of 600 new homes, the only thing city officials are waiting on is the technical review by the Woodford County planning staff.

Anderson Communities has purchased the right to develop the industrial park for the sum of $6 million. The contract was signed earlier this year, contingent upon passage of the rezoning. Now the only barrier to be overcome is the technical review, which Bozarth anticipates should happen on or around Jan. 1.

Dennis Anderson of Anderson Communities declined to be interviewed on when he expected to turn in the papers for technical review or begin redevelopment.

The council approved the rezoning Sept. 29 by a vote of 5-1, after months of deliberation. The county Planning and Zoning Commission recommended rezoning on the condition that the development be limited to the construction of no more than 50 homes per year.

Ed Lane, a Lexington real estate agent and publisher of The Lane Report, a publication on real estate and other business in Kentucky, said he feels optimistic about developer Anderson's plan and considers him a "very good builder" to tackle this project. And though the real estate market in America is currently on the rocks, Lane said that might actually help this project.

"With the development in Midway, that's going to be a 10- to 15-year deal," Lane said. "Actually it may be a good time to start when the market is at its lowest and you start out slowly. They're not going to go in and build all those houses; they're going to build them in chunks."

Lane also pointed to a few indicators that make him think the project will succeed. He cited Midway's high number of commuters, quality of life and close proximity to Lexington as factors that will likely fill up some of the newly constructed homes. An average home in Fayette County costs about $140,000, he says, and low property values in Midway could play a factor in selling some homes. And though he says home construction is at about 50 percent of what it was a year ago, he expects that the market will likely improve one year from now. Also, the small size of Midway has led to stability and room for expansion.

"Woodford County has got the lowest unemployment rate in Kentucky and they've got a real shortage of houses there," Lane said. "I would be optimistic that they could do well."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

First Midway Living History Day stirs memories

Story and photo by Megan Wimpy

Midway residents young and old came prepared and shared stories, photographs and artifacts at the first annual Midway Living History Day on Oct. 25 at the historic Thoroughbred Theatre. The first Midway Living History Award was given to Coach Ed Allin (in blue sportcoat), following a slideshow tribute to the Midway High School State Basketball Champions of 1937.

“Midway is unique,” said lifetime Midway resident Carolyn Logan, “there are few opportunities to celebrate small communities, so this is a very special day.”

Logan and friend Dorris J. Leigh were volunteers at the Midway Public School Alumni table. “The oldest yearbook on the table is from 1913,” said Leigh. “In 1947, we only have paperback yearbooks probably because of the war.” Leigh said 1963 was the last graduating class of Midway High before the merger with Woodford County.

Logan shared fond memories of school, including her senior trip to New York City and later marrying her high school sweetheart. Logan said, “I only had 10 classmates in my graduating class from Midway High School in 1958.”

Twenty-two year resident Bill Penn shared his story about working with Jim Sames, a local historian. Sames had started writing a book about Midway, but died a couple of years ago, said Penn. “Sames’s research files were donated to the Midway Museum,” said Penn, “I am going to co-write this local history book.”

Midway College Public Relations Director Sarah Wilson, sat at the college history table. “Midway College has gone through several transformations,” said Wilson. “It began as the Kentucky Female Orphan School and since has expanded offering online courses, an evening program for career development, and a graduate degree program.” Midway College has 1,700 students including 400 enrolled in the women’s day college, said Wilson.

Bob Rouse manned a table with information on how to update and expand the Midway Historic District. “Thirty years ago my mom decided Midway should be listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” Rouse said. “She filled out a timely application and documented the historic value of Midway.” Today 70 percent of Midway is documented on the register, he said.

Participant Joyce Evans has lived in Midway 40 years but still claims herself as a new resident. “I love coming to these events because so many people care so much,” said Evans. “These people have taken care of so much to our benefit.”

Randy Thomas, president of Midway Renaissance, which sponsored the event, began a slideshow tribute to the “Boys of ’37.” The presentation recognized the Midway High School state basketball champions of 1937 as the team that helped popularize Kentucky’s “Sweet 16” tournament and Kentucky sports radio.

Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle presented Coach Ed Allin the first annual Midway Living History Award for his dedication as a teacher, coach, humanitarian and contributions to the history of Midway. He also received a resolution from the City of Midway and a state House citation from Rep. Carl Rollins.

African American players coached by Allin talked about what it was like to play basketball during the 1960’s. They presented Allin with a poem about his courage to take a stand for African American players on the court.

After the 1963 school merger, Midway Bluejays became Woodford County Yellowjackets. A current Woodford County basketball player stood on each side of Allin as he was recognized, one wearing blue and white and the other wearing black and gold to symbolize the schools’ colors coming together.

Betty Ann Voigt, a lifetime resident of 85 years, said the boys of ’37 are a well-remembered team. “My father was a physician in Midway,” said Voigt. “Everything closed down so we could go watch the team play in Lexington. It was a memorable night.”

Megan Wimpy of Hopkinsville is majoring in agricultural communications at the University of Kentucky.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Council votes 5-1 to turn failed industrial park into residential and commercial development

By Ana Clegg
Community Journalism
University of Kentucky

The vote is in. Five of the six Midway City Council members were in favor tonight of re-zoning the Midway Station industrial park to a commercial and residential property.

After a two-and-a-half hour council meeting at City Hall, in which the council heard from lawyers on both sides and from members of the Midway community, the industrial park will be re-zoned.

Each citizen had only a minute and a half to voice opinion for or against the re-zoning. Most members of the community used the allotted time, while others ran out of time and Mayor Tom Bozarth cut them off. Most were against the proposal, saying Midway would lose its uniqueness.

Marcella Long said she would like to see more stores in Midway. Her story included a personal example of when she was trying to hang a picture in her home she couldn’t find a nail and had to drive another county over to get one nail.

Speaking longer were Henry W. “Hank” Graddy III, attorney for the Woodford Coalition, a group of neighborhood organizations active in land-use issues, and Richard Murphy, lawyer for developer Dennis Anderson. They took questions from council members about what the commercial part would include. Their answers included a wine vineyard, health-care facility and a reception hall.

Woodford County Fiscal Court Magistrate Gerald Dotson of Versailles said he was for the re-zoning because he wants the county stop paying the $508 a day in debt service on Midway Station, which has attracted little development. It has only three property owners. The city makes an identical payment.

Nick Bentley, a real-estate broker and developer who lived in Midway for 20 years and still has property in the town, said the residential development would “soften the rental market and de-value the real estate re-sale market … and Midway will go bankrupt.”

The county Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the re-zoning on the condition that no more than 50 homes be built each year. The development plan calls for just over 600 homes. That could double the population of Midway, which was 1,620 in 2000.

Diana Queen was the only council member to vote against the re-zoning. Generally, supporters of the re-zoning said it would bring more jobs to Midway.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dancing Dog Design joins ranks of retailers

By Ana Clegg

Dwayne Cobb has turned his hobby of jewelry making into a fulltime job. (Photo by Ana Clegg)

Cobb, 47, who’s the new owner of Dancing Dog Design at 101-B Main Street in Midway, started producing pottery, sculptures and jewelry when he attended the University of Kentucky. He gave the store its name because of a beagle named Ginger he owned when he was a teenager.

After undergraduate school, Cobb went on to seek a master’s degree in sculpting, but decided to go out into the working world before he finished. After 18 years of working for Hunter Manufacturing in Lexington as a manager of research and development, the company downsized and he was left looking for another job. (Read more)

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Midway Living History Day scheduled Oct. 25

Midway Living History Day is an informal ‘show-and-tell’ affair, with displays showcasing a variety of artifacts, photographs, and documents primarily from the private collections of citizens. The displays planned include the histories of Midway’s African American schools and churches, Midway College, the cemeteries, the railroad, the Midway Historic District, various historic farms, audio and video history projects, and much more.

More than 20 organizations and individuals are scheduled to present. Owners of the historical items will be on hand to discuss their collections and their knowledge of Midway’s history. We want to hear your stories, too! Midway Renaissance will offer free on-site scanning of historic documents and photographs related to Midway. For more information on the Annual Membership Meeting, Midway Living History Day, and other projects of Midway Renaissance Inc., click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Magistrate urges rezoning, threatens funding

By the Community Journalism class
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, University of Kentucky

If the Midway City Council doesn't rezone Midway Station, Woodford County might stop paying debt service on the failed industrial park, a magistrate said at last week's Fiscal Court meeting, The Woodford Sun reports tonight. (The Sun does not publish stories online.)

"The citizens of Midway need to understand that they are paying double for this debt -- county taxes and Midway city taxes," Magistrate Gerald Dotson said. He added that the proposed residential and commercial development is the only option for the local governments.

If the council votes down the rezoning, continuing a controversy that has raged for almost two years, Dotson said he would "personally have difficulty in voting to pay any other interest past Nov. 1" and might lobby the other court members to do likewise.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

City council postpones lawyers' arguments on Midway Station rezoning, votes to hear public

Again voting 4-3, the Midway City Council decided tonight to put off a decision on rezoning Midway Station to give citizens a chance to comment in a public forum on the proposal to turn the failed industrial park into a residential and commercial development that could double the size of the town.

Mayor Tom Bozarth broke a tie, passing Council Member Charlann Wombles' motion to postpone until Sept. 29 a hearing in which lawyers will make arguments -- and add to that meeting's agenda the opportunity for citizens to comment. Members Diana Queen and Aaron Hamilton voted in favor of the motion; Sheila Redmond, Sharon Turner and Matt Warfield voted against it.

At the start of tonight's meeting, Bozarth asked lawyers for both sides to allow comments from the public. Both objected on procedural grounds. Richard Murphy, attorney for Lexington developer Dennis Anderson, said that would be unfair to Anderson because the room was filled with people opposing the rezoning. Murphy said he had told supporters of the change not to come because only lawyers were supposed to speak to the council.

Hank Graddy, attorney for the Woodford Coalition, a group of neighborhood organizations active in land-use issues, said he had to agree with Murphy on the procedural point, but said the council needed to hold a formal, trial-type hearing to hear from the public. (He said after the meeting that speakers at such hearings traditionally are not sworn but must be subject to cross-examination.)

Wombles then moved for an argument-type hearing with public comments, "so anyone in this community who wishes to be heard will be heard." She said she was responding to the pleas of citizens and "in keeping with the democratic principles we all hold so dear." Queen agreed, saying “It is our duty to seek, hear, and welcome the different perspectives of Midway.”

Bozarth said city officials have heard plenty of comments outside public meetings. "I can't say anybody has been denied an ear, because we've been there and we've been listening," he said.

Queen said she didn't understand "what the downside is" to another hearing and still wasn't confident that citizens knew they might not have another chance for public comment after the county zoning commission hearing in Midway on May 29. The commission recommended rezoning on the condition that no more than 50 homes be built each year. Anderson's plan calls for more than 600 homes, plus commercial development.

City attorney Phil Moloney said speakers at the Sept. 29 meeting should be limited to comments on the record from the zoning hearing. Queen said it was "a pretty high standard" to expect citizens to know the contents of that record. Wombles said those who spoke at the hearing had to limit their comments to zoning issues, and she wanted a broader discussion.

In interviews after the meeting, Midway residents showed eagerness to express and hear different viewpoints about the rezoning. Former Mayor Becky Moore said, “It is ridiculous we have to ask our public officials to take time out of their busy schedules to hear the community residents.”

Thirty-three year Midway resident Sally Kinnaird said doubling the size of any community means profound change. “My fear is the services our city will have to provide to the new growth will bankrupt us,” she said. “We can’t double our city without complications.” Supporters of the rezoning say it would generate sufficient revenues and relieve the city of debt service on the industrial park, $509 per day.

Megan Wimpy, a Community Journalism student at the University of Kentucky, contributed to this story.

Monday, August 18, 2008

City Council votes to hear from lawyers before voting Sept. 2 on rezoning of Midway Station

Citizens will not get another formal opportunity to comment on the proposed residential and commercial zoning of the failed Midway Station industrial park before the City Council finally decides the issue on Sept. 2, the council voted tonight.

But lawyers for both sides will make arguments at that meeting, based on the record of a Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission hearing that was held in Midway, the council decided on a 5-1 vote. The "no" vote was cast by Diana Queen, who wanted a full hearing.

Phil Moloney, attorney for the city, said after the meeting that the "Citizen Comments" period that opens council meetings would not be open to comments about Midway Station on Sept. 2 in order to limit the official record to that of the zoning hearing.

An initial motion, to proceed without any kind of hearing, failed on a 3-3 vote, with Queen joined by Aaron Hamilton and Charlann Wombles. Mayor Tom Bozarth cast a symbolic tiebreaking vote against the motion, saying he had some questions he wanted to ask the lawyers in a formal setting.

Asked after the meeting why he didn't want to open the door to new evidence, Bozarth said, "We already had a public hearing, and most of the people in the room were there." He said his mind remains open about the matter. About 25 people attended last night's meeting at City Hall. More than 100 attended the zoning commission hearing, but Queen said she wasn't sure that citizens understood their opportunity to comment.

Peggy Johnson said after the meeting that the zoning hearing was the first time she had attended such a hearing, and "I didn't know what the protocol was and I didn't know what [Dennis] Anderson was going to say," and speakers had to sign up in advance.

Anderson is the Lexington developer who has agreed to buy the industrial park north of Interstate 64 and turn it into a 612-unit residential development with commercial areas. The sale would relieve the city of debt service on the property, which Council Member Sharon Turner said is $509 a day.

Richard Murphy, the attorney for Anderson Communities, said an additional hearing was unnecessary. "Everybody had the right to cross-examine, and did cross-examine" at the zoning hearing, he said. Hank Graddy, attorney for the Woodford Coalition, which opposes the rezoning, said a full hearing would correct what he called procedural defects at the zoning hearing.

Johnson, of Lexington, said she is a sales representative for a travel magazine and has a niece who lives in Midway. She said the development would "destroy tourism here" because the development would "take away the magic of Midway." Supporters of the rezoning have said it would remove the city's debt burden, expand its tax base and create jobs.

UPDATE, Aug. 20: U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, a resident of Woodford County, said on Lexington's WVLK Radio this morning, "It's a shame that the people of Midway don't have the opportunity to have the input that they deserve . . . about their future." Chandler was replying to Johnson, who called in. To a later caller with similar views, Chandler said he didn't have all the facts about the situation, but he generally believes government officials "should bend over backwards to make a special effort, to let people have their say, whenever possible." With his family, Chandler is part owner of The Woodford Sun, the county's weekly newspaper. The paper does not run local editorials, but his father, A.B. Chandler Jr., occasionally expresses opinions in a column, and the congressman's column for local newspapers often appears on the editorial page.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Former mayor calls for hearing on Midway Station; council to take up controversial issue Monday

This week's edition of The Woodford Sun included a letter from former Midway Mayor Becky Moore asking that the City Council hold a public hearing on the proposed zone change of the Midway Station industrial park to a residential and commercial development. The Sun does not put letters or news stories on its Web site, so here is the meat of Moore's letter:

"Midway Station has the potential to double the commercial and residential size of our town. The requested zone change will rezone existing industrial land to permit the construction of over 600 new residential units. Our mayor and six council members are faced with the daunting task of deciding on behalf od the 1,620 residents of Midway whether the proposed zone change is what is best for Midway now and in the future. The law allows the mayor and city council to decide this sisue without holding a public hearing or gathering any additional information if the mayor and council choose to do so.

"Because this issue is vitally important to our community, I urge citizens to contact our mayor and city council members; call City Hall at 846-4413 or attend the city council meeting on Aug. 18 to request that they hold a public hearing before making a decision on this issue. We deserve the opportunity to be heard, and to have our comments reflected in the official record so that they can be considered by our elected representatives in making this important decision.

"I will be dismayed and disappointed if the friends and neighbors that we have elected to represent us proceed without soliciting our input. We are their constituents, we elected them to represent us, and for them to truly represent us, they need to know what we think."

Early this year, some of the six council members spoke favorably of the idea of converting the largely failed industrial park, which is costing the city about $94,000 a year in debt service, with a development proposed by Anderson Communities of Lexington. See past blog items and MidwayMessenger.org for details. The council meets at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Planners recommend rezoning for Midway Station

The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission voted 6-0 last night to recommend that the Midway City Council rezone Midway Station, a failed industrial park that has saddled the city with largely unproductive debt, to allow sale of the property for a residential and commercial development.

The motion passed by the commission included a limit on the pace of the development, no more than 50 residential housing permits per year. Critics of the recently revised development plan, which has more than 600 residential units, have said it would create a glut of houses in the area and depress housing values. The city council could remove the limit if it rezones the property.

The zoning change is requested by the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the property and produced this promotional map, and Anderson Communities Inc., which has agreed to buy it if the zoning change is approved.

Commissioner Jim Boggs said that without the limit, Lexington-based Anderson could get all or almost all the housing permits allowed under the county's comprehensive plan for the next three years, shutting out local builders. The limit "takes care of that, if this is legal," he said. The commission's attorney, Tim Butler, said he thought the limit would meet legal muster because Anderson "committed to that" 12-year schedule during a public hearing on the change.

Anderson told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he was “ambivalent” about the limit. “It's going to affect the development plan,” he told reporter Greg Kocher. “We want to work with it. We'll put up every effort to try to make it work.” Kocher's 350-word story also quoted Hank Graddy, the attorney for the Woodford Coalition, which monitors growth in the county, as saying “This is a very bad planning decision” that should require another public hearing, this time before the city council, because the motion approved by the commission contained “factual errors,” such as a finding that Midway Station has adequate fire protection. Errors of fact are often the basis for lawsuits challenging rezonings.

Midway has a volunteer fire department and Midway Station is north of Interstate 64, in an appendage of the city limits. It was annexed around 1991, when the property was rezoned from agricultural to industrial. Critics of the plan have said it would create a "New Midway" separated by the highway from "Old Midway." For The Woodford Sun's story on the commission's May hearing on the issue, click here.

Mayor Tom Bozarth declined to say when the city council, which is next scheduled to meet on July 21, might consider the recommendation. Some council members spoke favorably of the proposal early this year, but opposition among their constituents appears to have grown, much as it did when the EDA wanted to sell the property to Bluegrass Stockyards Co., which wanted to relocate from Lexington but dropped the plan in the face of public opposition and the likelihood of legal action.

"The main concern of Midway citizens" about the latest plan, Hume said, "was that it was going to flood the city with residential units." He said the limit would regulate the pace of the entire development because some of the residential units would be in buildings with commercial units. "This is the most reasonable way to have some growth in a reasonable manner," he said.

Commissioner J.D. Wolf, noting that Midway Station has cost the city and county $1.5 million in interest with little to show for it, asked why Anderson shouldn't be able to "do what he wants." He said Anderson “might just say 'I don't want to fool with it.'” Hume replied, "I'm trying to take into consideration Midway and its citizens. . . . It's our responsibility." Now that responsibility falls to the city council.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Plans for Midway Station concern some residents

By Emily Funk
UK
School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The rezoning and sale of the largely failed Midway Station industrial park to Anderson Communities would bring 700 residential and commercial properties to the town of 1, 620, perhaps nearly doubling its size.

Some Midway residents are concerned about the environmental and financial consequences that could result from a development that would greatly increase the population of the community and affect its unique character.

To read the rest of this story, click here.

Council members would wear two hats in rezoning

By Emily Funk
UK
School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council is likely to vote this summer on whether to rezone Midway Station, a largely failed industrial park, for residential and commercial development.

The City of Midway also makes payments on the bonds used to buy and develop the Midway Station property, and will continue to make payments until the land is sold. That raises the prospect of conflicting interests – not for council members as individuals, but in their roles as stewards of the city’s economic and overall well-being.

For the rest of this story, click here or pick up a copy of the May 22 edition of The Woodford Sun and turn to the Midway page.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fourth generation gone, Weisenberger Mill rolls on

By Monica Wade
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Weisenberger Mill (photo by Scott Beale, Laughing Squid) has provided flour and cornmeal from the shores of South Elkhorn Creek since the 1880s, and a variety of other products in recent years as the mill passed through the generations of its founding family.

Now another generation has passed, with the April 9 death of Philip Joseph Weisenberger II, the mill’s fourth-generation owner, who developed the niche products that helped it survive in an era when most small mills went out of business.

Phil Weisenberger worked in the mill right up until being admitted to St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. He had recently undergone triple heart bypass surgery but was unable to recover from it.

“He loved the business,” said Buena Bond, his secretary of 41 years. “It was his life; he was in here every day, including Saturday, when he would make bread for his friends and family with flour from the mill.”

Weisenberger began working at the mill in the 1940s and took over the business in 1955 after his father died.

“He worked hard,” said his son, Mac Weisenberger. “He worked every day and took care of everything.”

Mac started working at the mill after school as a young man and then came to work full time in 1973. “I wanted to work in the mill since I was young,” he said. “Although it seemed like it was a lot easier back then.”

Even with Phil’s death, there is still a Philip Weisenberger at the mill – Mac’s son Philip Weisenberger, named for his grandfather.

Through the eyes of a young boy, the mill may seem like a wonderful playground, but in an adult’s view it is a fully functioning power that requires a great deal of time and work.

Bond calls the generations of owners a “chain reaction.” She said when one Weisenberger passes on, another steps up to fill their father’s shoes.

Beyond Phil Weisenberger’s hard-working attitude, he was also known for his kindness and generosity.

Father Dan Noll of St. Leo Catholic Church knew him for four years, since coming there as a parish priest. Noll said Phil often brought fresh bread that he made as a gift to the Father and sisters of the church. Family members and Noll said Weisenberger donated flour to impoverished nuns living in Louisville. Those nuns were said to have attended his funeral, along with many others who were touched by his generous hand.

Family members said Weisenberger held church in high importance in his life, along with his family and the mill. Noll said he attended Mass at least twice a week if not more often and that he was very active in several different parishes. He said Weisenberger would attend Saturday night mass at St. Francis or White Sulphur and was at St. Leo every Sunday morning, often accompanied by his wife Bett and his sister Betty Bright.

Noll said that in the hospital before surgery, Weisenberger was at peace with the prospect of dying, and was ready and not afraid.

“He really believed in God and in eternal life,” Noll said. “He saw an importance of loving others and keeping justice for the poor.”

He said Weisenberger had traditional values and was a big financial supporter of the church when it had to move to a bigger location.

“He was a generous man,” Noll said. “He was really open and caring. I thought very highly of him.”

Noll said Weisenberger had a happy nature and humble attitude. Bond called him a kind, gentle and happy man. “He always had a twinkle in his eye.”

She also said he was a born salesman and very creative, as he was the creator of the mill’s numerous mixes and batters.

Mac Weisenberger said the mill is partially run by two water-powered turbines, has kept the same flow since 1913, and can produce 150 hundred pound bags in 24 hours.

New, larger mills can produce around 1 million pounds. But the mill has prospered because specialty products created by Philip Weisenberger, such as flour and cornmeal mixes for frying and baking, biscuit mix and pancake mix.

Weisenberger is one of very few small mills left in the United States. Mac said that in 1950 there were 5,000 mills, and that number has dwindled to 500.

The mill is run by four employees: a miller, a mixer, and employees who fill packages, load the trucks and keep the place clean.

Though the mill’s product line has expanded, Mac said it is important to him, as it was to his father, to keep the basic process the same.

“We mill grain the same way since we started,” he said. “We put an emphasis on quality, not quantity.”

Friday, May 2, 2008

So many restaurants, so little town

This story includes updates, which appear in italic.
By Autumn Harbison
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

One night during his term as governor of Kentucky, 2003-07, Ernie Fletcher decided to eat dinner in Midway, Ky., halfway between the state's capital, Frankfort, and its second largest city, Lexington. He had no reservations and all five restaurants on Main Street were filled. He did manage to find a table at the Holly Hill Inn, up Winter Street toward Interstate 64.
"I’m never that busy," said Ouita Michel, the inn's owner and chef. "The sitting governor of our state always has table here at the Holly Hill Inn no matter how busy I am"
Midway may have a population of only 1,620, but within its city limits lay several high-profile restaurants that bring in customers from around the state, so many at times that it can be hard to get in to eat, as the governor learned.
"A lot of customers come from Lexington, Louisville, Frankfort," said Bill Van Den Dool, owner of The Black Tulip restaurant.The Black Tulip exterior
UPDATE: Black Tulip is now The Grey Goose, providing less of a fine dining experience and offering pizza and pub food fare.
So what makes the restaurant scene in Midway so special that so many people would be willing to drive a ways to get there?
"I think people are hungry for sort of an authentic experience in their lives," said Michel. "It's a little bit of a drive in the country and it kind of reconnects them with what it means to live in the Bluegrass."
Van Den Dool said customers come to Midway for an uncommon experience.
"Midway is something unique in this day and age, and I think that is what people are really looking for, something different, and not like the big chains," he said.
When dining in Midway, diners have several choices to pick from when making reservations.
"We’re all very different and we’re not cooking Kentucky exactly," Michel said, "but we’re expressing our own ideas about food in this area and this region."
With its neutral tones and modern furnishings, Heirloom serves up continental cuisine like seared Tasmanian salmon and an open faced New York strip sandwich. UPDATE: Heirloom fought to change state law so it could serve liquor, and won.

Bistro La Belle exteriorAt Bistro La Belle patrons can get French food while surrounded by homey décor. 
UPDATE: Bistro La Belle was closed for a period but has reopened as a soup and sandwich shop.
Lunchgoers enjoy a variety of hearty sandwiches and a cozy atmosphere at Quirk Café and Coffee.
UPDATE: Quirk closed and was replaced with 815 Prime and a downstairs tavern; 815 Prime has been replaced by Mezzo, which maintains the downstairs tavern. Heirloom owner Mark Wombles owns Mezzo.
Darlin Jean's Apple Cobbler Cafe, with its traditional home cooking, such as an old fashioned Kentucky hot brown, is also on Main Street but is most often frequented by locals.
The Black Tulip and the Holly Hill Inn round out the town's dining options.
"It's hard to put this restaurant into a little catch phrase," said Michel. "What we want to try to do here is bring a new sensibility to sort of something very old Kentucky." The Holly Hill Inn's walls are covered in art from Kentucky artists and it has a room where Kentucky poets come and read their works. The restaurant features a frequently changing menu.
The Black Tulip, on Main Street, serves both lunch and dinner in a warm atmosphere.
"There's a lot of camaraderie. It's just a good, fun place to be," Van Den Dool said of his restaurant. Offering fine dining with a classic winery feel, The Black Tulip has items like oysters Rockefeller and a New Zealand rack of lamb on its menu.
While Lexington has a wide selection of comparable restaurants, many people from the city some to Midway.
"It's not that far. It's a nice drive through pretty country," said Midway resident Lucy Clare. "They come here and there's really no trouble parking in the evening."
Michel said many customers come to Midway to experience something they can no longer find in larger cities.
"I'm not knocking chain restaurants … but they don't have the flavor of the region at the heart of what they're doing," said Michel. "That's part of what is so neat about these restaurants in Midway."
Van Den Dool also said people come to Midway to eat because they want a change from the usual.
"I think that is what people are really looking for, something that is different, not like the big malls and chains," Van Den Dool said. "Here you've got the little mom-and-pop stores, here you've got the little guy trying to make a living. And it's working. People like to see something different."
Most restaurants in Midway do relatively little advertising. Van Den Dool said The Black Tulip only advertises at Keeneland Race Course during racing meets and on a friend's radio station early on Saturday mornings. Michel said the Holly Hill Inn employs a publicist to generate media attention for the restaurant.
"Word of mouth is everything in the restaurant business," said Michel. "You want people talking, but you've got to make sure you're starting the conversation."
Both owners said word of mouth is the best advertising they get.
"The best thing is that people leave here and are satisfied or happy," said Van Den Dool. "They spread the word."
First-time Midway eater William Goebol of Lexington was invited there for dinner by a friend who had been there before. He described what he was expecting from his dinner experience while waiting for his food to be prepared.
"I'm anticipating a quiet, relaxing meal," said Goebol. "I don't think it's going to be like . . . Lexington, where it's eat and leave."
The restaurants in Midway do not just serve dinner, and the differences in the feel and atmosphere of the lunch and dinner hours are like night and day.
At lunch, businessmen dressed in tailored suits sit drinking wine while blue-collar workers at the next table bite into sandwiches washed down with Coke. There is no standard lunch attire; but like at dinnertime, there is no rush to finish.
Black Tulip interiorQuirk interior
The lunch crowd at the Holly Hill Inn is predominantly women, according to Michel.
"I love the ladies' lunch. As a Southern tradition, I really love it," said Michel. "Our lunchtime menu we try to keep more traditional than we do at night, kind of more Kentucky."
When the sun goes down, the nice clothes come out, as the cream of Kentucky comes out for dinner at Midway's fine dining restaurants. One night in February, people were dropped off in a stretch limousine and a woman walked into a place for dinner wearing fur.
Because of their high volume of customers, all of the restaurateurs in Midway recommend having reservations.
Many well-known people have eaten at Midway's restaurants. According to Michel, actor William Shatner and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, have been to the Holly Hill Inn. Wallace Station, a restaurant near Midway run by owners of the Holly Hill Inn, has been visited by actor Johnny Depp, who has relatives in Frankfort. The Black Tulip has fed actor Steve Zahn and television personality Carson Kressley.
During his time working in the White House for President George W. Bush, political guru Karl Rove and some of his associates made a reservation to eat at The Black Tulip after a political event in Lexington, but were late. This eventful visit is now a local legend. Van Den Dool, who upbraided Rove, tells the story:
"If I would had been downstairs, in all honesty, I would have would have said 'Sorry, that's it,' because for one thing they had reservations at 8 o'clock; they didn't show up until 9. And then the worst thing is they have an ice tea, they have a cup of coffee. They were the cheapest ---- -- ------- in town."
Rove and Fletcher apparently didn't realize that the restaurants in Midway are so popular it can be a feat to get a table, no matter who you are.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Foes of proposed indoor smoking ban gave county health board an earful at second hearing last night

By Melissa Hill
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The battle between personal freedom and public health continued last night at the open forum held by the Woodford County Board of Health on the latest version of its proposed smoking ban. Although the board had changed the proposal, many residents continue to express their opposition to it.

“It’s disturbing that a small group of people want to get together and tell taxpayers what they can and can’t do in their businesses,” says Woodford County resident David Long. Many residents who attended the meeting shared his opinion, including farmer and liquor store owner Carol McDonald. “If it’s your business, it should be your choice,” says McDonald. “Every business should put up a sign and let the public know if they allow smoking or not.”

Since its first forum, in February, the health board addressed some residents' concerns. Health Department Director Garland VanZant laid out the changes to the proposal but said no final decisions have been made.

The definition of “reasonable distance” from a building entrance was changed from 25 feet to “not less than three feet from any outside public entrance to or open windows of any area in which smoking is prohibited.” Also, of particular interest to Midway and its restaurants, smoking would be permitted on restaurant patios and mandatory “No Smoking” signs will be provided by the health department at no cost to the entities. None of these issues were discussed by Woodford County residents or the board of health at last night’s forum.

Even with these modifications, some residents are still not satisfied with the proposed smoking ban. One Versailles resident and firefighter said, “I feel like I am being treated as a second class citizen because I smoke. I don’t want to live in a society where the government tells us what we can and can’t do.” Liquor store employee Cindy Reed, as well as other residents at the forum, said business people should have the freedom to choose how they want to run their businesses. “Choice is a God-given thing," she said. "I have heart disease and I am still a smoker, but it’s my choice.”

Other Woodford County residents have concerns about fines businesses will have to pay if customers break the rules and say the person or persons violating the smoking ban should have to pay the fine, not the business. As the proposal now stands, enforcement will be on a complaint basis and a person violating the ban would be fined up to $50. A person who owns, manages or operates a public place and fails to comply with the provisions of the regulation will be fined up to $100 for the first violation, up to $250 for the second, up to $500 for a third and up to $1,000 for the fourth and each additional violation within one year from the previous offense date. Some residents say these regulations are too harsh on the businesses because they are not responsible for their customer’s actions.

The exemption of “private clubs,” such as the Versailles post of the American Legion, is also a concern of some residents. Billy Wilson of Wilson’s Pool Room says it’s unfair to exempt certain businesses and not others. Although Wilson is not for the proposed smoking ban, he wants the same rules to apply to every person and every business in Woodford County. “This country’s going to hell,” alleged Wilson as he stormed out of the forum.

The first hearing brought out many supporters of the ban, but the sole supportive opinion last night came from American Cancer Society employee Cindy Young. “I want to thank the board of health for considering this,” she said. “We want to protect the health of workers; second-hand smoke causes cancer and disease. The American Cancer Society applauds you and we are behind you.”

County Judge-Executive John Coyle, chairman of the health board, stressed that no final decisions have been made regarding the ban and said the health board’s goal is to fully and fairly consider the health and economic impact the smoking ban would have on Woodford County residents and businesses. Coyle said the next meeting concerning the proposal will be on May 15 at 5:30 p.m. This meeting will be open to the public to observe but not to participate and a second reading of the regulation could be given and voted on. If it passes, July 1, 2008 would be the proposed effective date of the smoking ban.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Midway Renaissance group takes over art fair

By Emily Zengel
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Two Midway organizations have established a much stronger connection, giving hope that both will continue with their successful pasts. But in the town of 1,620, not everyone had the same views about combining a not-for-profit corporation and the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival.

Midway Renaissance Inc. will now be solely responsible for planning the start-of-summer festival. The decision came during the Jan. 21 city council meeting, where members voted to rescind Midway’s current agreement with Midway College, and transfer the responsibility for the festival to Renaissance.

“It will remain a partnership, really a collaborative effort of Renaissance, the city of Midway, and Midway College,” Midway Renaissance President Randy Thomas said in an interview. “The only thing that’s changing is the oversight responsibility.”

Francisco’s Farm has been a successful, juried art fair since its creation in 2004.

The festival has won numerous awards since its debut. It won the 2004 Enterprise Cities Award from the Kentucky League of Cities. It’s twice been placed among the Top Ten Festivals and Events by the Kentucky Tourism Council and was among the “Top 20 Events” for June 2007 and 2008 chosen by the Southeast Tourism Society. In January, The Kentucky Festival and Events Association presented Francisco’s Farm with its “Best Festival Website” award. To see the site, go to www.franciscosfarm.org.

Christensen said the change in responsibility will not affect Francisco’s Farm.

“I don’t think the festival will change as a result of moving to Midway Renaissance. I think it’s just come home to Renaissance, because it started there,” said Christensen, who is employed by the corporation.

The festival took some time to get ready for the public. According to Christensen, a small committee of Midway Renaissance, the Social and Cultural Action Team, began planning the event with some advice from Mike Stutland, owner of the Artique Gallery in the nearby city of Lexington.

“They decided that an art festival would be a very good fit for Midway, something to engage the whole community, and something of which the whole community would be proud,” said Christensen.

And so far, the festival has engaged a large part of the community.

“We average that better than 10 percent of the community is involved,” said Council Member Charlann Wombles. The city’s population in 2000 was 1,620, so if Wombles is accurate, about 162 people help with the festival.

At the first festival, volunteers outnumbered the artists two to one, according to Christensen. They helped set up booths for the artists, brought them water and helped many other ways as well. In its first year, Christensen estimates that there were 75 artists. Last year’s festival brought in 130.

Christensen and Wombles attribute part of the growth and success of the festival to the way volunteers treated the artists. It seems the festival had some unexpected benefits for the community, especially those involved with the event.

“There’s something about working side by side with people that you may not socialize with, necessarily, year round; but getting to know people who have, for one thing, the common interest: loving the town where you live,” said Christensen.

Midway Renaissance, is an organization that receives funding from the statewide Renaissance on Main Program. Gov. Paul Patton began the initiative as Renaissance Kentucky in 1999; the goal of which was to give financial assistance to small communities for downtown development.

The original agreement made Nov. 27, 2006, between Midway College, the City of Midway and Midway Renaissance said the college was to provide facilities, food service and college employees. The city was to provide a contract with an event coordinator (with the advice of Renaissance), a bank account for event funding, fundraising, and student scholarships.

That agreement and another were rescinded at the council meeting. The new agreement states that Renaissance is responsible for conducting Francisco’s Farm in 2008. New Renaissance responsibilities will also include handling all financial aspects of the event and contracting with the event coordinator, to be paid solely from festival funds. Upon request, the city may provide employees to help before and after the event.

“I think the college is glad where [Francisco’s Farm] can come out from under them because it’s less responsibility for them. I know from the mayor’s standpoint, I feel like it’s the same thing with him. They have more important issues to deal with,” said John McDaniel, who is a director of Midway Main Street Renaissance.

Main Street Renaissance, which is a branch of Midway Renaissance Inc., focuses on the improvement of Main Street.

The new agreement was signed by Thomas and Mayor Tom Bozarth, after a few changes that were made during the council meeting. Council Member Charlann Wombles said the changes made involved the wording of the contract.

“There have been agreements that have had to be developed and worded to suit everyone,” said Wombles.

Wombles added that most of the work on the agreement was done by volunteers. One of the changes made was requested by Council Member Sheila Redmond. She suggested that Renaissance should be able to request, instead of require, assistance from the city. That change was approved.

Redmond originally said she was disappointed about the transfer of Francisco’s Farm to Midway Renaissance, because she wanted to see more people in the community involved than just those in Renaissance.

“It’s not really going exactly the way I think it should go. I’m glad it’s out from under the city,” Redmond said. “But the city is so intertwined with Renaissance, that I question the wisdom of that. But at the same time, maybe it is the way to go.” Renaissance was created by the city, and Bozarth is the corporation’s process agent.

Redmond would like to involve new community members and possibly residents of Lexington and Frankfort as well, because she said fresh ideas can help organizations thrive, and would like to see a creation of open forums.

“People could sign up and say, ‘you know I really think I have some things that I could add to Francisco Farm, and I’d like to be part of that’,” said Redmond.

Although everyone may not be on the same page about the agreement, it seems that people really do love the town of Midway, and want to see it grow and thrive, through Francisco’s Farm, other arts or other avenues all together.

“I would love to see a venue for art education and opportunities for adults, children and the whole community,” said Wombles, adding that she believes Midway residents are very ripe for art education.

Redmond wants one organization to house several kinds of arts projects, and hopes that in the future, something like this may be possible. She originally created the Midway Arts Foundation for similar reasons.

“It started out pretty good. They had a pretty good response and everything,” said McDaniel. But after a little while, he said, “Arts in Midway kind of faded.”

The festival may be an exception to McDaniel’s statement. When asked about her vision for arts in Midway, Redmond said “For all intents and purposes right now, there is no arts in Midway. It’s kind of a failed effort, one that I hope in the future will revive in one sort or another.”

Despite her disappointment in Renaissance’s new responsibilities, she remained positive.

“I think there’s hope for the future, and I think the time has to be right for things, and maybe just the time isn’t quite right,” said Redmond.

But no matter what organization residents become involved with, whether it’s a current one or one that has yet to be created, Christensen gives a good reason for why people do so.

“I think that everyone has a need to be, to contribute and to be involved with other people in the creation of something that they see as a good thing,” said Christensen.

This year’s Francisco’s Farm will be held June 21-22.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fund-raiser supports Francisco's Farm arts festival

By Emily Zengel
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

“I like to compare it to Northern Exposure meets Mayberry.”

That’s how singer Billy Hill describes Midway, Ky. It may be a small town, but people from across the globe are drawn to the restaurants and antique stores lining Main Street.

There’s another reason people go to Midway: Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival. It's a juried art event and takes place annually at Midway College. There’s also live music throughout the festival. This year's festival will take place June 21-22.

At a recent fund-raising event in Midway for Francisco's Farm, people were able to see what it's all about. There was live music, a silent auction and an intermission show. Here's a report.

video

Friday, February 8, 2008

Health board plans to have much lighter limits on outdoor smoking

The Woodford County Board of Health decided last night to scale back its proposed smoking ban, largely to meet the objections of restaurant owners, and primarily those in Midway.

Outdoor smoking at businesses will be limited only to within "a reasonable distance," at least 3 feet from any public entrance. That will keep smokers out of doorways but allow continued smoking on restaurant patios. That was a big issue for Midway restaurants such as The Black Tulip, which has a patio with tables at its front entrance.

Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth, who attended the meeting, said afterward, "I think it's good for us, and I'm happy." County Health Director Garland VanZant said the board plans to have first reading of the revised ordinance next month, a public hearing in April and final passage in May, with the ordinance to take effect around July 1.

VanZant said the board also decided to exclude volunteers of non-profit groups from the definition of "employee," a change sought by veterans' organizations, and to ban all smoking in hotels and motels, instead of requiring designated smoking or non-smoking rooms. VanZant said Woodford County has no hotels or motels. One is planned along Interstate 64 at Midway.

For a copy of the draft regulation, click here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Midway restaurants, other businesses object to outdoor limits proposed in county smoking ban

By Melissa Hill
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

VERSAILLES, Ky. -- Many residents and business owners attended last night's forum in Versailles on a proposed smoking ban in Woodford County, including Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth and Bill Van Den Dool, the owner of The Black Tulip restaurant.

One of their main concerns is the provision that would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of outside entrances or open windows. “Twenty-five feet in Midway is a lot," Bozarth said. "If you go out 25 feet, you’re going to be in the middle of the road. This needs to be addressed. It will not work in Midway.”

Van Den Dool’s main issue is his restaurant's patio. He says when the weather is warm, he gets most of his business from people eating, relaxing, and smoking on the patio. “I can understand no smoking indoors, but people on the patio should not have to be asked not to smoke,” he said. Other restaurants in Midway, such as the Holly Hill Inn and Quirk Café and Coffee, have patios.

Bozarth and Van Den Dool were not the only Midway business owners and residents with concerns about the proposal. At a merchants meeting in Midway this morning, many business owners expressed their opinions. Quirk owner Grayson Vandegrift said, “We put a lot of time and money into our businesses and to tell us what we can and can’t do is wrong.” Midway businesses already ban smoking on their own, but not to the extent the county Board of Health has proposed.

Overall, business owners said the ban would be a good thing, but feel the health board, residents and business owners should work out a compromise. Bozarth told them he plans to write a letter expressing Midway’s concerns to County Judge-Executive John Coyle, the health board chairman. Some Midway business owners are petitioning Coyle, saying they want a compromise that would benefit all residents.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places and places of employment, including restaurants, bars, sports arenas, and shopping malls, as well as many other public places.

Health Department Director Garland VanZant said in an interview that the health board will meet tomorrow evening to discuss what transpired at the forum. He said the board may send the proposal back to the committee that developed it and ask the committee to meet with restaurant owners and concerned residents to work something out, or could drop it. VanZant said passage of the ordinance would require a first and second reading and a formal public hearing, which probably would not be until May, if then.

Midway can be more than just the town of 1,620

Where is Midway, Ky.? A complete answer to that question should also answer another form of the question: What is Midway?
Why? Because Midway can be more than just the land and people in the city limits. About 2,500 people have Midway addresses because they live in the ZIP code that includes the city, 40347. For example, former Gov. Brereton Jones is often referred to as "a Midway horse breeder," though his home is closer to Franklin County than to the Midway city limits. A HometownLocator.com map of the postal zone appears below. It includes small parts of eastern Franklin County and southern Scott County.
The Census Bureau has a slightly different "definition" of Midway, limited to the boundaries of Woodford County. It is smaller than the ZIP code area, but includes a section east of Pisgah Pike and north of Old Frankfort Pike that is not in the postal zone. Here is the Midway census tract:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Council meeting gives glimpse into Midway's future

By Autumn Harbison, Melissa Hill, Sean Patterson & Monica Wade
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, University of Kentucky

Midway’s City Council meeting Tuesday night gave a glimpse into Midway’s future. The proposed Midway Station development and changes in an annual art fair dominated the meeting, but the council also discussed the proposed Woodford County smoking ban and a journalism experiment with the University of Kentucky.

Change is coming to Midway and Anderson Communities is the catalyst. The Midway Station commercial and residential development being planned by the Anderson company would bring 700 new residences to Midway, said Bob Rouse, right, the Midway representative for the Woodford County Economic Development Authority.

That would slightly more than double the number of residences the town currently has, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "That’s what Midway is all about, bringing people in, and I think this will do that,” said Rouse. “This community is going to change.” He assured the council that it would not be a sudden change, but that the plan would unfold throughout the course of 10 years.

The authority has signed a contract to sell the property, contingent on a zoning change. Rouse said it also depends on the permission of the four companies who bought property with the expectation that it would be zoned for industrial use. The rezoning hearing has not yet been scheduled, pending approval from the former property owners, but the most likely date is March 27, Mayor Tom Bozarth said.

The land in question has been the subject of contention lately. It was the intended location for the Bluegrass Stockyards facility that ended up not being relocated from Lexington. Rouse said the four companies "bought into a plan that has since changed," referring to their approval of the stockyard plan. "We need to get them on board before we move forward."

Asked about the proposed zoning change, Bozarth said, "We need to learn more about it and how it would impact the city of Midway. "We have to look at costs and other factors." But he also noted that the city has a lot invested in the property already. “We’ve paid over $700,000 in interest on the property,” he said. “It’s an interesting piece of property that is not paying down like we wanted to.”

Rouse said the project would lower sewer rates and increase tax revenue. He said he didn't know if the project would provide jobs for local residents, but Council Member Aaron Hamilton, who asked him that question, seemed positive about the plan. “I think it will be a good thing for Midway to bring in new faces and new people,” he said. Council Member Diana Queen also said in an interview that she supports the change.

Art fair responsibility shifts

The only major, formal action of the evening was approval of a new contract transferring responsibility for the annual Francisco's Farm art fair from Midway College to Midway Renaissance Inc., a not-for-profit organization that has worked with the fair in the past.

At the suggestion of Council Member Shelia Redmond, the agreement was changed to say that the Renaissance organization could request, instead of require, assistance from the city.

Council Member Charlann Wombles, right, alluded to past conflict over the issue. “It’s required a lot of patience, but it’s a good thing,” she said.

Other business

Al Cross, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky, addressed the council and introduced five journalism students who he said would be reporting on Midway for his class. He said he wants his students to get real-world experience in covering a small town, and the city deserves its own news outlet. “This is a town that gets visitors from all over the world,” he said. “People in small towns deserve good journalism just as much as people in large towns.”

For now, a Midway blog has been set up at this site, but the class will soon develop a Midway Messenger Web site. Bozarth said of the students, “I encourage everyone … to be open with [them].”

Bozarth, left, criticized Garland VanZant, the director of the Woodford County Health Department, for not notifying the Council of the county health board's plan to enact a countywide ban on smoking in public places. “I think out of respect and courtesy he should have done so,” Bozarth said -- noting later that Midway businesses already ban smoking.

The proposal, the subject of a Feb. 5 public hearing, would be a major change for Woodford County, which was once among the top five producers of tobacco in Kentucky and still raises the crop.

The council ended the meeting with a closed session that lasted approximately 10 minutes. The motion to hold the session said it was to discuss the purchase of property, one of the exceptions to the state open-meetings law.

Photographs by Sean Patterson

Friday, January 11, 2008

Economic Development Authority OKs sale of industrial park for residential, commercial project

By Emily Funk

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority unanimously voted Friday morning to authorize the execution of a contract to develop Midway Station Industrial Park into a residential and commercial community. (Click image for larger version)

The contract has yet to be heard at a public meeting, and zoning must be changed by the county Planning and Zoning Commission and the Midway City Council before the sale is final.

If the project runs into opposition from citizens, that would be par for the course. Many opposed creating and annexing an industrial park in the early 1990s, and there was much opposition to a recent proposal to sell it to Blue Grass Stockyards. Due to lawsuits and the high cost of reconstruction, the stockyards pulled out of the deal.

“It has been a long, frustrating journey,” said Bob Rouse, a Midway resident and member of the EDA.

The Anderson Communities development plan (above) includes 253 attached residential units, 256 single-family detached residential units, 149 residential units associated with commercial uses and 57 residential uses associated with office uses.

Developer Dennis Anderson has numerous residential and commercial properties in Fayette County and is developing property on the south side of Midway’s Interstate 64 interchange. Midway Station is on the north side, farther from the old section of town.

Anderson met with members of the EDA on Sept. 26, 2007 to outline his plans for Midway Station, reported the Oct. 4, 2007 issue of The Woodford Sun.

“We think we have been doing a good job on meeting three basic needs of people: clean, safe, affordable,” Anderson said. “We build communities,” he continued. “That’s what separates us. It seems like everybody else is selling houses or selling land, and they don’t look at how it all interacts with one another.”

Sidewalks will be wide enough for people to walk side-by-side, and though houses will contain back yards and other venues for their residents’ privacy, elements such as front porches, garages in the back or sides instead of the front, and open green spaces will encourage public interaction, the Sun reported.

Previous Anderson communities have added chain restaurants, but Anderson said that Midway Station is “going to be a boutique community: neat little houses, small back yards, village greens, community center.”

The purchase agreement between the EDA and Anderson Communities was approved on July 27, 2007. At Friday’s meeting, EDA Chair Michael Duckworth acknowledged the short time period between the purchase agreement and the execution of the contract.

“Some think we rushed, but we were under pressure,” Duckworth said. “We have looked at the company and product. The [Industrial] Park needs a transition if it’s going to be successful.”
The pressure felt by the EDA stems from the difficulty it had had in selling property in Midway Station. The land has been controlled by the EDA for 10 years and marketable for five years. In 2006, Blue Grass Stockyards of Lexington decided to purchase and relocate to Midway Station, causing a local controversy.

Supporters saw an opportunity to create jobs for the area. Opponents, however, were concerned that the operation could cause traffic problems, pollute groundwater and the nearby South Fork of Elkhorn Creek, and create other pollution such as animal odor and noise. They were especially concerned about the possibility the stockyards might compost animal waste on-site, reported the July 5, 2007 issue of The Woodford Sun.

Despite the opposition, the Midway City Council voted 4 to 2 in April 2007 to change the zoning ordinance to allow stockyards in industrial zones. Councilwomen Sheila Redmond and Sharon Turner voted against the measure.

Despite the vote, stockyard Chairman Gene Barber decided that his business would not relocate to Midway from near downtown Lexington.

In a letter sent in June 2007 to The Woodford Sun, Barber cited the difficulties the stockyards would face in awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit filed by a group opposed to the relocation to Midway. He said a new facility could take up to six years to complete and, given the current age and condition of the Lexington facility, the owners would need to pour a large amount of money into it to keep it operating until a new facility could be built. He also cited the cost of repaving roads in the industrial park.

Duckworth said, “We spent 14 months trying to relocate the stockyards to Midway Station. On July 2, 2007, the deal ended.”

Nearly eight months later, Rouse is still trying to understand the opposition to the stockyard relocation. “I’m an eighth-generation Midway resident. We are a farm land community,” he said. “Preserving that market would have been a nice fit.”

The Anderson Communities have encountered less resistance than the Blue Grass Stockyards, but some citizens still have concerns about development of the property. They were not called on to speak at Friday’s meeting, but were interviewed afterward.

Jo Gardone works at the Eagle’s Nest Gallery in Midway and resides in the Ironworks residential community in Scott County, on Elkhorn Creek downstream from Midway Station.

The creek runs near Midway Station and has flooded four times since Gardone has lived there, she said.

“I am worried about the environmental impact on the creek when they start construction,” she said. “That land is very fragile.”

Transformation of the property from an industrial park to a mixed-use community depends on the zoning change, which requires a public hearing – a date for which has not been set.

If the change occurs, the construction will not begin anytime before spring 2009, Anderson said at the September 2007 meeting.

He added that the plans call for the development to take place over 10 years. “I doubt we’re going to get it done in 10 years,” he said. “It isn’t going to be Earth-shaking — we’re just going to ease into it.”