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.