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.”

1 comment:

sarahicks said...

What will be the impact on public services (schools, fire department, traffic) of doubling the number of residences of our town?