Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doris Leigh leaving local government after 46 years

Editor's note: Monday evening's council meeting will be the last for Leigh as a member.

By T.J. Walker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Every vote counts.

But to Midway City Council Member Doris Leigh, every vote matters. That's why when she wasn't re-elected in November, she wasn't upset for long.

Leigh, a Midway resident born and raised, wants what her fellow citizens want.

"It was fine, if that's what the people wanted," Leigh said in an interview last week. "It hurt at first, and it hurt the next day, then I got over it. I had done all I could do, and if that's what they want I've done all I could." (Photo by Dick Yarmy)

At 83, Leigh has no plans to run for office again. She said the initial pain to losing the election came because she was had been told she had won, in a race where the top six vote-getters were elected.

After all the votes had been counted, Leigh was told she would be re-elected, getting two more votes than fellow incumbent Daniel Roller to get the sixth spot. But the absentee ballots were forgotten, and when those votes were counted, Leigh was ousted by only four votes.

"I was shocked," Vice Mayor and Council Member Sharon Turner said. "We had all thought she had won."

Leigh won't be in office, but she won't soon be forgotten.  She worked in the Woodford County Courthouse for 42 years as the chief deputy in the property valuation administrator's office, then retired and was elected to the council in 2008. Over the years she has made a lot of friends. She'll even help the three new members of the City Council, she said.

"I wish the three new ones well," Leigh said. "I'll help them because this is a good town to live in. They'll do well." The newcomers are Sara Hicks, Grayson Vandegrift and Bruce Southworth, who respectively placed second, third and fourth in the election, behind Turner and ahead of incumbent Aaron Hamilton.

Leigh has become an icon in Midway. She feels connected to the town and said she knows everybody. Before working at the courthouse and running for office, she worked in the Midway Post Office and as a nurse. She's given half the people in Midway their baby injections, she said.

Leigh has loved every job she's ever had, she said, and even if she's not working in the government she plans to continue helping others.

"Midway means more than anything to the world," Leigh said. "I love Midway and I've done everything I could do."

Volunteering will be the next step for Leigh. She'll spend most of her time at Woodford County High School and at the library. She wants to help any way she can.

City Clerk Phyllis Hudson is inspired by Leigh's commitment and dedication to Midway.

Hudson has been around Leigh long enough to know that she's rare, and that her commitment to her town is one of a kind.

"Doris is absolute gem," Hudson said. "You can't help but to love her. She gives 100 percent at everything she does. Doris treated this community like her family. She truly loved everybody."

Leigh is proud of having known her community. Hudson said in order to do a good job in a government position you have to know what the people want, and Leigh did.

"We need someone like Doris Leigh to be out there to understand everyone's views, so they can make informed choices," Hudson said.

Leigh doesn't look back at one specific accomplishment she and her fellow city council members made during her time in the courthouse or city government. She's more proud, she said, of all the small things she accomplished.

And in an elevator.

When they needed to steal her away for a few minutes of insight, a judge or county attorney often would take an elevator ride with Leigh. It became a valuable brainstorming space.

"Every once in a while I would get a call saying, 'Let's ride the elevator'," Leigh said. "The judge would have something he would want to get settled; the county attorney would do the same thing. We rode the elevator a lot and it was fun. The judge called me the other day saying, 'I miss those days in the elevators, and we solved a lot of problems.'"

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Tourist destination' amendment to zoning ordinance is on its way to Fiscal Court and city councils

By Cassandra Shouse
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

VERSAILLES – “Tourist destinations” would be allowed in rural areas of Woodford County under the countywide zoning ordinance if the Fiscal Court and the Midway and Versailles city councils go along with last night’s vote of the Planning Commission.

After a second public hearing, the commission voted 8-1 to adopt a revised version of the amendment to the ordinance. Although the revisions dealt with some of the issues that brought objections at the last hearing, citizens such as Libby Jones of Midway still said it needed more work.

Jones, right, the wife of former governor Brereton Jones and his partner in Airdrie Stud, said the traffic created by tourist destinations could have harmful effects on the horse farms of Woodford County. She urged the commission, “Please do not adopt this amendment as it is written; please go back to the drawing board one more time and address the issue of how the rights of the neighbors can be protected.”

Nathan Billings, an attorney representing property owners in the Pisgah Historic District, had several issues with the proposal. He said it was special legislation for the CastlePost, a home made to look like a castle at the junction of Pisgah Pike and Lexington Road, that has converted to a bed and breakfast. He said “it’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows about, and no one wants to acknowledge.”

Billings said the definition of a landmark added to the proposal was vague and unconstitutional. The proposed amendment defines a landmark as “any site, building, structure, or natural feature that has visual, historic, or cultural significance.” He also said the definition of “tourist destinations” and “tourist destinations expanded” were in complete violation of the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the commission, the county and the cities.

Another resident, Tom Brown, didn’t think the proposal is necessary. Noting that a special board does individual assessments of property in agricultural zones whose owners would like to open to tourism, Brown said the commission should “adopt an approach similar to the current ag-tourism review and assessment used by the Agricultural Advisory Review Board.” Since it’s only one property, the CastlePost, that prompted this proposal, Brown said it would be better to do an assessment similar to the ag-tourism review, so a proposal that could be used as a zoning backdoor wouldn’t be necessary.

Jim Boggs was the only commission member to vote against the proposal.

UPDATE, Jan. 7: The Lexington Herald-Leader examines the proposal.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Planning Commission votes 8-1 for latest version of 'tourist destination' amendment to zoning ordinance

The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission voted 8-1 tonight to recommend that the cities and county amend the countywide zoning ordinance to provide for "tourist destinations," a move sought by the CastlePost east of Versailles but opposed by those who said it would destroy the integrity of the county's agricultural zone.

Jim Boggs was the only commissioner to vote against the latest version of the amendment, which added some definitions and limitations to the original. Some who had opposed the first version said at tonight's public hearing that it resolved their issues, but more, including Libby Jones of Midway, said the changes didn't go far enough and the proposal needed more work.

The proposed amendment now goes to the city councils and Fiscal Court for action. Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth said in a telephone interview that he had expressed some concerns about the proposal to some commissioners, but he expected the City Council to "go along" with it, as it does with most proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance.

A more detailed story on the meeting appears above.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tree lighting starts the season; Santa is on his way

By T.J. Walker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Rain didn't stop some Midway residents from sharing the holiday spirit and singing a Christmas carol or two Friday night. ABout 25 people lined Main Street for the annual tree lighting. Few kids saw the lighting, possibly because of the rain, but also because they needed to get to sleep, as a BIG visitor will be making his way through town Saturday morning. Santa Claus arrives via R.J. Corman Railroad at 11 a.m.

Here's a video report with people at the tree lighting. (The screen indicates an incorrect running time; it is about 2:20.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Filling a swimming pool will no longer qualify you for an adjustment in your water-sewer bill

By Kevin Ortiz
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

After an intense debate, the Midway City Council voted 3-1 Monday night to stop reducing sewer charges for residents who fill swimming pools with water that does not enter the sewer system. 

The process has allowed pool owners a one-time discount based on the owner’s previous six months of water usage.  Members of the council couldn’t agree on an adjustment plan that would include things like turning on sprinklers and watering gardens.

Council Member Charlann Wombles raised the issue, saying, “My concern is with those of us who use water for watering our gardens, or just a variety of reasons who have no avenue for requesting an adjustment.  “I think it would be nice for other citizens to have that too, and I know it would be a nightmare, an absolute nightmare, to compute and to administer, but that still does not make it fair.”

Council Member Sharon Turner also voiced her displeasure: “I think it’s an unfair practice and I’ve said that since I’ve been here in 2005.”

Referring to the $1,400 in total reductions of sewer charges this year for pool owners, detailed in a list given to council members and members-elect, Turner said, “It’s not the amount of money, it’s the principle.” She said that even with a second meter to measure non-sewered water, a device that would cost a customer at least $700, “It’s an unfair practice.”

After the council couldn’t agree how to make the adjustments fair, Council Member Daniel Roller suggested that the issue be referred back to committee. Mayor Tom Bozarth said the matter should be left with the whole council. Earlier, Bozarth had asked the council, “Does anyone think this is a fair policy?” and Roller had replied, “I don’t think it’s an unfair policy.”

After his committee suggestion was rebuffed, Roller asked his colleagues, “Do you want to make a motion that we do away with water adjustments completely? If you want to put your vote out there and somebody wants to make that motion, then we can vote on it.”

Turner then moved to abolish the pool adjustments. Roller reiterated that he would like to see the issue go back to committee for research, but Bozarth called a vote on the motion.  Wombles and Doris Leigh joined Turner in supporting it; Roller voted no, and Joy Arnold abstained. Aaron Hamilton was absent.

“I don’t think the adjustments are unfair,” said Roller.  “I don’t think it penalizes everyone else.”

Among other business, the council appointed Debra Shockley to the county planning and zoning commission’s Architectural Review Board, named Al Schooler to the commission’s Board of Zoning Adjustments and put Helen Rentch on the county Human Rights Commission.  

The council also gave first reading to ordinances adopting the commission’s proposed changes in the countywide zoning ordinance. All deal with signs; one change would allow electronic signs with changing messages, and another would require removal of signs advertising businesses that have closed. Second reading and passage are scheduled for the next meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16 at City Hall.

Announcements of civic interest

Wombles announced that the Sister City Board, which would oversee agreements with cities in other countries, will meet at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9 at the Midway Branch Library to discuss its proposed bylaws. All meetings of any committee created by the city are open to the public.

Turner announced that fund-raising for the Homeplace at Midway through last week's quilt show totaled $17,075, not including proceeds from meals promoted by restaurants and donation jars that are still in local businesses. Roller noted that the total includes $5,000 donated by the Francisco’s Farm arts festival.

Bozarth announced that the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday and that Santa Claus will arrive by train at 11 a.m. Saturday.

This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5.