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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.

1 comment:

Dan Roller said...

Your August 20th Update quoted U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler as saying "should bend over backwards to make a special effort, to let people have their say, whenever possible." That is exactly what Mayor Tom Bozarth's vote has done, and every citizen of Midway should commend his bold public minded action. Surely Mr. Anderson would want to consider all factors relating to the proposed zone change request and assure the future success of his proposed development."