Friday, April 19, 2019

Church plans to locate in Midway Station and provide child care, something long sought by city officials

Midway Station, which is finally meeting Midway's economic and budgetary needs, is about to fill another need: a day-care center that would be operated by a church that wants to buy and build on six acres in the development.

The Woodford County Economic Development Authority board voted Friday morning to pursue the sale to Journey Ministries Inc., which has a church on Leestown Road in Franklin County, near the Woodford County line. It is not affiliated with Journey Church on Lexington Road in Versailles, EDA Chair John Soper said.

Soper told the EDA board that the church plans to build a facility that will seat 400 people and include an "educationally based child-care center modeled after the facility started by Pastor Gary L. Brown in Georgetown," Journey Ministries said in a news release that Soper distributed at the board meeting. Brown said in a telephone interview that the facility is at Grace Church, pastored by his son.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the board, "I don't think I can overstate how important this is going to be for our city. . . . People are literally driving 30 minutes in the opposite direction from their work to get good day care."

The release said Journey Ministries also "wants to create and offer private-sector business options at the site; these may include a coffee shop, a doughnut shop and other entrepreneurial opportunities." Soper said the various enterprises are expected to create 70 jobs in two to three years, exceeding EDA's goal of 10 jobs per acre.

EDA Chair John Soper points to the lots in Midway Station
that would be optioned for sale to Journey Ministries Inc.
Journey would pay EDA $300,000 for 6.128 acres, less than EDA's target price of $65,000 an acre, but Soper said the "slight discount" is justifiable because it would buy multiple lots and some common property that would have otherwise gone to a pending property owners association.

The tracts were already in the process of being rezoned from professional-office and residential to highway commercial. A church can locate in any zone with a conditional-use permit, zoning director Pattie Wilson said. The EDA board voted to be a co-applicant with Journey Ministries to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for the permit.

Soper said that when the idea of a church in Midway Station was first suggested, he thought, "What are you talking about?" but then saw that with the other enterprises, "They'll have activity in that park seven days a week," which would encourage development of highway-commercial lots nearer Georgetown Road and allay any weekend security concerns of industries in the park.

Soper and other EDA members also cited the benefit to families in Midway. Maria Bohanan said it would make the town more attractive to families with children, perhaps boosting enrollment at Northside Elementary School.

Vandegrift said his wife Katie, who chaired the Child Care Task Force that the City Council created in 2017, feared that its work had gone for naught, but he said Journey Ministries had cited the survey that the task force had taken to establish the need for day care in Midway.

"This is a big deal for us, and really, for the whole county," he said.

County Judge-Executive James Kay said Midway Station or Versailles could be a potential location for a pediatric mental-health group that has made the county its prime target for its third location, which would bring 20 jobs.

Kay said the group has facilities in Benton and Elizabethtown, and wants a facility that would be closer to Eastern Kentucky, to address great needs there. One plus, he said, is the relocation in Versailles of Frontier Nursing University, which has a psychiatric degree program with a child specialty.

Kay said the facility would have 48 in-patient beds, requiring an agreement with the county schools for education of the young patients. He said the the county school board is to discuss the idea Monday night.

Soper said the cost of land in Midway Station "might seem daunting to them," but if the group is interested, he would be willing to consider granting unusual six-month option for purchase of property while the facility obtained a certificate-of-need permit from the state because "the upside to the community on this would be so great."

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