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.