Sunday, July 29, 2018

Economic developers and developer Anderson now see eye to eye on industrial zoning at Midway Station

Midway Station developer Dennis Anderson, who has done only residential and commercial projects in Lexington, is getting more comfortable with the idea of selling industrial lots in Midway, now that he has a prospective buyer.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority voted Friday to seek industrial zoning, with Anderson, of about 75 acres in the southeast section of Midway Station. EDA Chair John Soper said the request was prompted by Anderson's pending sale of a relatively small lot to a plumbing supply company.

Dennis Anderson (2014 photo)
The deal breaks an impasse between Anderson, who didn't want to seek rezoning until he had a prospective buyer, and EDA, which wanted to change most of the residential zoning in Midway Station to industrial because it sees residential zoning as a disincentive to industrial buyers.

"With Lakeshore [Learning Materials] and AHK there, we just don't see the prospect of successful housing there," Soper told the other EDA board members. Planning Director Pattie Wilson added, "He would have to redo all the infrastructure" to create a residential development. Anderson had hoped to do that with tax-increment financing, in which new tax revenue pays for redevelopment of blighted property, but state officials said the property did not fit the official definition of blight.

Midway Station started out as an industrial park about 30 years ago. In 2008, when there had been few industrial sales and the city and county were saddled with debt service on the property, they and EDA redesigned it as a commercial and residential development. The Great Recession hit quickly, and Anderson did not develop the property but kept paying the interest to maintain his option on it.

In recent years, the property became attractive to industrial buyers, and EDA sold part of it for Lakeshore and bought and sold an adjoining tract for AHK, an auto-parts manufacturer.

The rezoning would leave about 11 acres zoned for apartments as the only residential zoning in Midway Station. The area near Georgetown Road is zoned commercial; between it and the residential zone is an area zoned for professional offices. The area at the far eastern tip of the property is not suitable for development, Soper said, but 35 to 40 acres are.
Wilson suggested that a tract of no more than 3 acres at 630 McKinney Ave., corner to Fisher Street, be added to the parcel to be rezoned because it would not be suitable for residential if the rest was rezoned. The board agreed.

Among other business, Soper said the county needs a housing-needs analysis to help address the lack of affordable local housing for industrial workers, perhaps leading to local government subsidies like those Fayette County gives to make rents affordable.

Employers have been having difficulty finding employees, and housing is part of that issue. Soper said employers "eventually ask" about housing for employees, and "I anticipate that conversation coming in Midway."

The latest report on industrial employment in the county, distributed at the meeting, shows AHK with 82 employees and Lakeshore with 243, on its way to 262, at which point state and local incentives that were offered to attract the distribution center will kick in. The new Woodford Reserve warehouses, north of Midway Station, were listed as having 25 employees. Two warehouses have been built; 12 are planned as a conditional use in an agricultural zone because bourbon is made from grain.

Soper said the Castle and Key Distillery in Millville now expects to employ 100 when it is in full production. "As I talk to people about getting a hotel in Midway, this is a success story to tell," he said, because Midway is an attractive base for traveling the Bourbon Trail. It is also near horse farms that offer tours, and six miles from the Old Friends horse retirement farm near Georgetown.

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