Thursday, April 29, 2021

Keepmeinmind, bred by Southern Equine Farm, is Woodford County's main connection to this year's Derby

Keepmeinmind and jockey David Cohen on the track at Churchill Downs April 23 (Photo by Eric Crawford, WDRB)
UPDATE, May 1: Keepmeinmind finished seventh, eight and a half lengths behind Medina Spirit.

Woodford County's connections to Saturday's Kentucky Derby are "the weakest in years," but there's one strong Midway connection, through Southern Equine Farm, which borders the town, Thoroughbred bloodstock agent and former mayor Tom Bozarth of Midway told the Messenger today.

"Keepmeinmind is the only true WC connection, as Southern Equine is the breeder," Bozarth wrote after researching the field. "The other tidbit I discovered is the dam of O Besos [Snugs and Kisses] resides at Nuckols Farm. He was not foaled there but at Denali Stud in Bourbon County."

The Chamber of Commerce issued this list of connections; click to enlarge.
Keepmeinmind has early odds of 50-1. He won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November and ran fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 3. He is trained by Robertino Didoro and owned by Cypress Creek LLC (Kevin Moody) and Arnold Bennewith, and by Spendthrift Farm, which bought a 50 percent interest in him in early February.

In the Lexington Herald-Leader's panel of 25 experts, only one picked Keepmeinmind to finish in the money; Tom Leach picked him to show, as "the late runner to blow up the trifecta/super[fecta]."

Woodford connections to Friday's Kentucky Oaks are likewise scant, but the race has a similar Midway connection, Bozarth reports: "In the Oaks, the only WC connection is Ava’s Grace, and she has been scratched. She was bred by Southern Equine and is by Laoban, the same sire as Keepmeinmind.

"It is quite interesting that both of the horses are by the same sire who stood in New York, Laoban. Southern Equine bought Laoban for $260,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. They raced him in partnership with McCormick  Racing. He won one race in nine starts, the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He stood at Sequel New York for $7,500 until this year and was moved to WinStar for a $25,000 stud fee. This is the connection to Laoban for Southern Equine and Midway," Bozarth writes.

UPDATE: Matthew Lyons says on Facebook that "Coach, in the Kentucky Oaks, was born and raised on Stockwood Farm on Woodlake Road in Midway!" 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

City will hold online 'preview' meeting May 10 for Northside Drive developers to unveil their plans

Northside Homes LLC bought the property last year from Jack and Debbie
Graves, and announced it would develop it. For a larger image, click on it.
The City of Midway will hold an online meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 10, for the first public presentation of construction plans by would-be developers of the 7-acre tract on Northside Drive.

In announcing the meeting in an email, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said it was scheduled "out of our interest in making sure the public has the ability to be as informed as they desire."

The meeting will be a Zoom call with Mike Bradley of Northside Homes LLC, who "will present for the first time to ourselves and to the public at large the plans his family has for the proposed housing development," Vandegrift wrote.

"I want to reiterate that this is not usual for a city or a developer to do this: Most places simply wait for the planning and zoning commission’s public hearing to reveal and present such developments to the public. Such a public hearing will be held by the Planning Commission, likely in June, and that date will be confirmed soon. At that time, the public will have the chance to make their preferences known to the Planning Commission before they make their official recommendation to the City Council. If the Planning Commission recommends a zone change to the city council, it will ultimately be the decision of the council whether to rezone or not."

Vandegrift said the “preview” meeting will not be a public hearing, but members of the city's Affordable Housing Task Force will ask questions of Bradley and "any other representatives he wishes to have join him. The preview will be streamed live on Midway Government Streaming Meetings Facebook page and will be available for replay on that page as well as on the YouTube channel Midway Government Streaming Meetings and on our city website, meetmeinmidway.com."

The mayor concluded, "Our sole intention is to give the public the chance to see the plans the owners have for the development before the public hearing in June. We at the City of Midway cherish the public’s right to information when it becomes available, and we are appreciative that Northside Homes LLC has agreed to present those plans to our citizenry ahead of the public hearing."

Northside's latest known plan calls for the construction of 60 "townhomes" in 20 clusters of three, joined by breezeways and priced at $130,000 per lot. That would require a higher-density zoning than now on the property, which is surrounded by the city limits but is not in the city. The City Council has passed an ordinance of intent to annex it, to get the right to make the final decision on rezoning.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Council to meet Wed. on budget, permit for restaurant; mosquito-control company makes another proposal

UPDATE, April 29: The council approved the permit and deferred action on the mosquito-control proposal, but acted on other budget items. A story on the meeting will appear later.

Diagram shows how patio will encroach on city property.
The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 28 at City Hall.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said in an email that he will call the meeting to act on an encroachment permit for Darlin’ Jeans restaurant "so they can open their back patio for business starting this Friday (their patio lies within our right of way).

"Afterwards, we will hold our third budget workshop, and line-item action may be taken." The council has been deliberating on the mayor's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

All council and committee meetings are open to the public. Vandegrift said the council will observe the same pandemic protocols that it did at its regular meeting last week. He also announced, "We have updated our internet at City Hall and plan on live-streaming the meeting as well."

Mosquito Mate map shows proposed treatment area.
UPDATE, April 27:
Mosquito Mate, a company that controls the insects biologically, has made another proposal to the city, limited to Walter Bradley Park, Vandegrift said in an email.

The treatment area would include the dog park, the quarry and "some of the problem area that may be coming from the auto mechanics shop . . . especially if they have old tires and containers around causing artificial breeding sites," Karen Dobson of Mosquito Mate told the mayor in an email.

She said she didn't have a firm price estimate, but said the work would cost around $8,000 to $10,000. The company's first proposal was for about 20 acres, 12 in the park and eight downtown, for $18,000.

Dobson said she would like to meet with some Parks Board members "to gauge observations from past summers" before starting the project, which would be soon: "Our releases start May 7."

The company releases male mosquitoes that are infected with a bacterium that prevents reproduction by females, the sex that bites. It is based in Lexington and has been in business for four years.

Governor declares this Ed Brown Society Week, honoring African Americans' contributions to racing

This is a press release from the governor's office. Edward Dudley Brown is buried in an unmarked grave in the Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery at Bruen Street and Wausau Place in Midway.

Edward Dudley Brown (Keeneland Library)
Today, Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation naming April 25 through May 1 as Ed Brown Society Week in the commonwealth, recognizing African Americans’ contributions to horse racing ahead of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1.

“In the 1800s and early 1900s, the majority of jockeys were African Americans. But, despite their centuries of contributions, after World War I, African Americans were pushed out of the sport,” Beshear said. “I am proud to recognize the Ed Brown Society, an organization helping right this wrong by providing mentorship to the next generation of African American Kentuckians in the horse racing industry.”

The Ed Brown Society is named after Edward D. Brown, who was born into slavery in Lexington in 1850, but through his tenacity and love of the sport developed into one of the most accomplished African American horsemen in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

Brown was sold at age 7 to a proprietor of Woodburn Stud in Woodford County. Brown had a small boyhood stature, but gained a vast knowledge of horses, which afforded him the opportunity to become a jockey in his early teens.

At 14, Brown won his first race on a horse named Asteroid. A year later, Brown was emancipated. He continued to work at Woodburn Stud until the proprietor’s death in 1867. Afterwards, Brown built his career as a top jockey and trainer until he saved enough money to establish his own racing stable, where he owned and trained a number of stakes winners.

Brown’s most distinguished career highlights include two standout victories. He rode Kingfisher to win the fourth running of the Belmont Stakes in 1870, and led Baden-Baden as a trainer in 1877 to win the third running of the Kentucky Derby.

Brown’s important role in thoroughbred racing was confirmed with his 1984 induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The Ed Brown Society was recently established to celebrate the rich history of African Americans in the equine industry as well as to create opportunities for young African American Kentuckians.

“At the Ed Brown Society, in our past, we want to acknowledge and educate about the wonderful history of African Americans in horse racing in our great state,” said Ray Daniels, chief executive officer of Equity Solutions Group and president of the Ed Brown Society. “In the present day, we want to highlight the great jobs and opportunities in the equine industry. We’ve been successful in guiding 30 African Americans into horse ownership in the past few years. And the future for us is to educate young students to make these opportunities in the industry a reality.”

The society aims to increase diversity in thoroughbred racing and its support professions, helping more people pursue a career they are passionate about, and at the same time, helping the equine industry reach its full potential. For example, as of 2018, African Americans comprised 13.4% of the U.S. population, but made up only 1.7% of veterinary employment, a statistic the society wants to help improve.

Through partnerships with industry stakeholders and educational institutions, the Ed Brown Society has the opportunity to ensure the horseracing industry is well-positioned culturally and economically to create a stronger, more diverse pipeline of talent for the future.
Ray Daniels spoke at the signing ceremony today as Greg Harbut listened. (Governor's Communications Office photo)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Alamdari does 116 E. Main work required by agreement; city awaits engineer's certification of safety and stability

116 E. Main St. is pictured this week (Photo by Lauren McCally)
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Nasar “Ness” Alamdari has met the deadline in the agreement to head off demolition of the historic African American landmark at 116 E. Main St., Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said this week.

In an email to the Messenger, Vandegrift said the 45 days in the agreement passed on April 10 and “Mr. Alamdari did all three things we stipulated.” Those included a $1 million liability insurance policy, construction of an eight-foot wall of 2x4s to prevent public access from the sidewalk, and anchoring the scaffolding to the building with cables.

The agreement also allowed Alamdari to either have an engineer who is contracted with the City of Midway or one of his choosing to approve or disapprove the safety measures taken to keep the public safe. Alamdari chose to find his own engineer, Ron Jackson.

Vandegrift said he has asked Jackson “to review the anchoring and to write a letter confirming or denying its structural stability and that it is safe for the public.” Once that happens, the mayor, said he would write a letter to the county building inspector to notify him that the agreement has been satisfied and Alamdari will be refunded the fee he paid to appeal the inspector’s demolition order.

“At that point, we’ll all be eager to see Mr. Alamdari get to work,” Vandegrift said.

The agreement came early February after an online meeting in which the mayor called a report delivered by a city-hired engineer “harrowing.” Almost exactly a year before, the building inspector had made a routine inspection that resulted in a condemnation order requiring repairs to be done by March. Alamdari was later given until Oct. 31 to make those repairs. A few days before that deadline, he got another building permit that is good thru October of this year. The building had been an object of public concern for years.

The building was erected in 1898 and is a landmark in the African American community because it was home to the Pilgrim Lodge of the Odd Fellows, an African American men’s organization. There were several owners over the years before it was bought by Alamdari in 2016.

In an email interview after the meetings in Feb., the mayor said he thought that there had been “plenty of good” had come from the meeting.

Alamdari plans to have the building open to tours on June 19, according to a post by Milan Bush on her Honoring Black Stories In Midway page on Facebook. Details for the tour have not yet been decided, according to Bush.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Last Midway Station industrial lot still for sale by EDA

Map highlights Midway Station Lot 24. Lots 18-20 may be rezoned from commercial to industrial to suit a potential buyer.
Midway Station still has an industrial lot for sale, after all, and it might have more industrial lots. That's the upshot of today's meeting of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, which owns the industrial and commercial park and is trying to sell the rest of it to pay off its remaining $1.17 million debt, which is the share responsibility of the county and the City of Midway.

EDA Chair Michael Michalisin of Midway said the pending sale of Lot 24 had "dissolved" because the distilling company that planned to put a warehouse there "determined that the topography of the land doesn't fit its business plan." In other words, it would have to spend too much regrading the lot.

The lay of the land was also an issue last month, when the EDA board decided to sell the 4.6-acre lot to the unnamed distiller for a flat $100,000, rather than to storage developer Mark Caldwell for $250,000 minus regrading costs that were to be negotiated. Those negotiations didn't pan out.

The normal cost of an industrial lot in Midway Station is $65,000 an acre. The sale to the distiller would have been $21,739 an acre, but Michalisin said at last month's meeting that it is a "highly challenged lot."

Most of the board's Zoom meeting today was taken up by a 52-minute closed session to discuss "both potential land purchases and sales," as authorized by the state Open Meetings Act. Before the session, in the period for comment by guests, Vandegrift said "recent activity may present more opportunities" for the commercially zoned lots closer to Georgetown Road, and one big question is "getting it rezoned to something more appropriate."

Vandegrift and county Planning Director Pattie Wilson were among the guests allowed into the closed session. Afterward, the mayor told the Messenger that EDA has another prospect for Lot 24, and Caldwell is a prospective buyer for Lots 18, 19 and 20, which are zoned commercial and would have to be rezoned industrial to accommodate his plans.

They would also have to be redesigned and reconstructed, so consulting engineers are updating designs and cost estimates they did recently, Vandegrift said. "We're having to thread a needle here," he said,

The mayor said Midway Station does not need as much commercial property as zoning currently gives it, because there is more commercial potential in downtown Midway than there was when the property was originally zoned.

Among other business, Vandegrift said an illness in the family of an appraiser has delayed City Council action on a deal EDA has already approved: giving the city about 35 acres of un-platted land along Interstate 64 in return for the city giving up all claims to debt nominally owed to it by EDA for utilities.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Council hears opposition and questions from neighbors of proposed development, OKs annex-intent ordinance

Map, adapted by Messenger, shows Midway's city limits.
By Lauren McCally and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council passed an ordinance of intent to annex the 7.48 acres owned by Northside Homes LLC, and heard objections and questions to the company’s proposed housing development, Monday evening.

The meeting was the first the council has held in person during the pandemic. “This is the first time since March 16th of 2020 that we have met in here,” Mayor Grayson Vandegrift noted. He said he and the entire council were “double vaccinated plus two weeks,” the time the final dose takes to have full effect. They wore masks when not speaking.

The council also heard public comment for the first time in the pandemic, received an update on the city’s sidewalk and sewer projects, heard the mayor analyze the issues of the ‘Tin Man’ water tower, and approved a summer music event.

Aside from the request for that permit, everyone else speaking to the council addressed the proposed housing development, which would require rezoning to a higher density.

Vandegrift said he wanted to remind everyone that if the city doesn’t annex the property, then the decision on its rezoning would fall to the Woodford County Fiscal Court.

He said the plan for the property will be released in early May when Northside LLC makes a submission to the Planning Commission, which will announce the date of a public hearing for some time in June. He said it would be in Midway.

Anticipating citizens’ comments, Vandegrift said, “We are the victim of transparency in that we let the cat out of the bag early,” by suggesting to the developers that they tell the Messenger about their purchase last June. He added that he firmly believed that the public has “a right to know when things are happening.”

The first person to speak was Joe Haydon, a retired police officer and National Guard member, who lives next to the area owned by Northside LLC. Haydon said he has been in Midway for 30 years and raised his family in the city.

“I want you to know that I’m extremely against this – sixty houses in my backyard,” he said. Northside’s preliminary plan calls for 60 “townhomes,” in threes joined by breezeways. Haydon also questioned the amount of water runoff that would result.

Vandergrift said, “I’m probably going to have a lot of the same questions you have.” Mayors preside over city councils but vote only to break ties.

The next person to speak was Tiffany Marsh, who lives in the older neighborhood adjacent to the proposed development.

She said that after annexation and before any zone change of the 7.48 acres, “I would like to see Midway City Council develop and adopt a long-range plan to manage development and future growth,” considering “quality standards consistent with surrounding neighborhoods,” as well as prevention of new development from becoming rental property, meeting needs of the older residents, and maintaining long-term quality of neighborhoods in Midway.

The mayor noted the comprehensive plan followed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which is “part of the Midway city government as well.”

Marsh also noted the city’s look into affordable housing. “For years we have heard that there is a need for affordable housing without defining what that is and without any data to support” the belief, she said. “The city has very few chances to get new development right and Midway residents will be living with those decisions both good and bad for years to come.”

Near the end of the meeting, Council Member Stacy Thurman, who heads the council’s Affordable Housing Task Force, said she wants to pursue a housing needs assessment. The developers have said they plan to sell the townhomes for about $130,000 each.

Emily Feeback, who lives next to the proposed development, on a lot that is mainly outside the city limits, also said she is concerned about the lack of a needs assessment.

“Anyone in business knows that you can think you know what’s needed and be way wrong,” Feeback said. She also added that the city needs to do it right, “as Ms. Marsh said” and “just because we can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do.”

The ordinance passed 5-0. Council Member Steve Simoff was absent. The ordinance does not actually annex the property, just paves the way for the council to decide any rezoning.

Other business: Vandegrift said the city is seeking bids on sidewalk repair and street paving. He said eight sidewalk areas are in applications for cost-sharing and he believes there will be another.

As previously announced, paving will include Martin Street, aprons on First and Second streets, completion of the West Stephens Street corridor to the cemetery, and the pavilion area in the cemetery.

The mayor said replacement of the sewer main leading to the treatment plant “was slowed down by an easement dispute” with Kentucky Utilities, and then by rock, but should be done by June 30, the end of the city’s fiscal year.

He said the Tin Man tower is “an icon we all want to save” but would be “probably the city’s most expensive art project” because it is no longer needed. He again mentioned the possibility of raising the insurance premium tax or selling ad space on the tank, or even the tower itself, to help pay for repainting. “I don’t know if anybody would want to buy it,” or if the public would want it sold, he said.

The project would be expensive, he said, because the paint on the tank contains lead and would need to be sandblasted and covered to prevent contamination of surrounding areas. “We can’t just go and throw a coat of paint on it,” he said. “That’s at least a $400,000 project on something we don’t use or even need.” But he concluded, “I don’t want to see it torn down; I don’t know anybody who does.”

The council approved an event permit for the Midway Music Festival, to be sponsored by Midway Renaissance July 24.

Elisha Holt, the event coordinator, said it would run from noon to 4 p.m. in the courtyard below the westbound side of East Main Street, and from 4 to 10 p.m. on the street, similar to Midsummer Nights in Midway. She said it would be financed by sponsors or as many as 20 vendors.

In the closing comments, Mary Raglin noted that it was her first meeting in the building as a council member and that it had “been pretty interesting.” Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was glad to see everyone there, and “I’m just glad to be out of the house and in here.”

Friday, April 16, 2021

Council hears proposals for more park money, biological treatment to cut down number of mosquitoes in town

The part of the plan apparently preferred by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift (Map adapted by Mosquito Mate)
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

In its second budget workshop Tuesday night, the Midway City Council discussed increasing funds for the Parks Board and heard a presentation from Mosquito Mate, which provides a biological control for the insects.

The council took no action on either issue, but had detailed discussions with both proposers.

Parks Board Chair Cecelia Gass asked for $14,000, with $8,000 going for upkeep and $6,000 for improvements. Last year’s budget was $9,500.

The upkeep items include $3,000 for management of invasive species, mainly honeysuckle and wintercreeper. “This is something that is going to be much more expensive for us now because the state has issued a new requirement that anyone who sprays in public areas for any kind of weed or any other kind of control has to be a licensed professional,” Gass said. She said board has been doing the work with volunteers who buy their own chemicals.

Other pieces of the proposed upkeep budget are $1,500 for gravel and/or rock for ongoing upkeep of trails, $2,000 for machine rental and $1,500 for supplies such as seed, straw and compost.

In the improvements budget, the board asked for $3,500 for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant welcome center at the end of Newton Street, by Midway University; $1,500 for a weathered-steel sign at the Northside Drive entrance, and $1,000 to extend the ADA-compliant trail to the park’s pergola.

“One of the things we really are proud of working on is the ADA trail,” Gass said. She said the pergola has “a lot of butterflies and flowers and something that somebody would enjoy.” She said both projects would be done with volunteer labor.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher asked if the city already had some of the equipment that might be needed for the projects. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said: “We do have some of these things,” but not a trencher and in some cases not the smaller equipment that is better for the park.

Stephen and Karen Dobson of Lexington presented their invention, Mosquito Mate, to the council.

It is a spin-off from research at the University of Kentucky, where Stephen Dobson is an entomology professor. They showed how Mosquito Mate uses male mosquitoes infected with a bacterium that prevents reproduction by females, the sex that bites. They also talked about a pilot project in Water Bradley Park and some areas downtown, as well as pricing.

The Dobsons said they lived in Midway for a few months when they first moved to Kentucky and have had their company since 2010. They said it is recognized worldwide for its innovation in bio-technology-based solutions and being environmentally friendly.

Their plan calls for treating about 20 acres, 12 in Walter Bradley Park and eight downtown, by releasing about 1.6 million male mosquitoes over a course of 20 weeks, and giving the city a 50 percent discount, for a price of $18,000.

Vandegrift said he thought it was an “intriguing idea that is certainly worth looking at” and “I don’t see any other way to treat the mosquito proem in town other than just hiring people to spray just God knows what all over, which may affect our park, may affect people’s enjoyment of downtown. I just don’t see that being an option.”

He said after the meeting that if the council wants to give it a try, it should pick just one area, and hears more complaints about mosquitoes in the park. The Dobsons noted that mosquitoes usually spend their whole lives in the space of a football field.

Council Member Logan Nance said he “learned a lot” about mosquitoes from the presentation, but wondered what the public would think about spending taxpayer money to release a million mosquitoes.

Vandegrift said his biggest concern is “how can we show the taxpayers they got a return on investment other than some anecdotal evidence” and that it would be a “bad investment to just do it one time.” Nance said if it works, then he thinks it would be worth it.

Karen Dobson said, "What we try to do is get a baseline of mosquitos and what we'll probably do is, if this goes forward and the city of Midway decides to do a pilot project, we would probably start trapping in this area to kinda get a feel of what kind of numbers you guys have.”

Stephen Dobson said, “We want this to be a success. Our reputation is gonna be tied to this,” because “This will be . . . the first city that we’ve partnered with in the state.” Karen Dobson said, What we want at the end of the summer is for people to say, hey, I got a lot less bites this year. And that’s really how we gauge all of our customers.”

The mayor said he also wants the public to know that this solution is available for them now for private purchase, as three homeowners in Midway have already done.

“I’m really pleased to say that were in such a position that we can start tackling problems like the mosquito issue in Midway,” Vandegrift said. “ “We are in the position where we could become the first city in Kentucky to publicly employee this method, this green biotechnological method.”

Hicks also said she appreciated the non-chemical approach and asked if it would work with other mosquito-control approaches. Stephen Dobson replied, “We often talk about integrated control. You don’t want to just hit them with one thing, you want to have multiple ways to attack them.”

Mosquito Mate’s season typically runs from May to September and includes two applications per week for 20 weeks, a bi-weekly activity report, breeding-site surveillance, water removal and non-chemical treatments for standing water. Karen Dobson said this will be their fourth summer of operation.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Spotz Gelato is open at 130 E. Main St. in Midway

Spotz Gelato (Photos by Lauren McCally)
By Lauren McCally

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

A new place for satisfying that sweet tooth has opened in Midway.

Spotz Gelato is located at 130 E. Main St., joining locations in Versailles, Georgetown and Shelbyville.

Beth Richardson, the owner of Spotz Gelato, lives about five miles from Midway on a Scott County farm where she and her husband, Phillip, make the product in a commercial kitchen.

“We love Midway because it’s really close to where our farm is,” she said, adding that they pass right through the city every time they go to the other locations. “I just love the town, it’s got a great vibe.”

Gelato differs from American ice cream in that it has less milkfat, is served warmer, and is thicker and denser because less air is churned into the mix during freezing.

Beth Richardson
Richardson said the idea for Spotz came about eight years ago, when she and her husband bought a food truck. “My husband wanted to redo a vintage trailer and I wanted to do some sort of food truck out of it, so we came to a compromise,” she said.

They found a vintage trailer that needed to be redone and Richardson said she convinced her husband to paint it pink and put spots all over it. That’s where the name Spotz came from.

“We still have eight mobile units,” she said. “They’re all pink and covered in spots and that same design carries to our store.”

Spotz workers took orders and served gelato.
Richardson said they were able to do some construction in the Midway location and “put back some of the historical charm” into the building. “We love historic buildings and we love when we can put back some of that old charm” she said.

Tuesday night, the store had what Richardson called a preview night for members of the news media, bloggers, neighboring stores, and local politicians, which she said went really well.

On Thursday nights the week a store is opening, Richardson said they usually choose a local charity to partner with for a “soft opening,” with all of the proceeds going to the charity. For the Midway shop, the chosen charity was the Woodford Humane Society. In an email, Richardson said that the event “went great” and they were “able to raise a large amount” for the humane society.

The actual grand opening is today from 3 to 9 p.m. After that, the shop will be open Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 9 and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 and will be closed on Mondays. Once summer comes, the hours will expand from noon to 9, Tuesday through Sunday.

Richardson said her favorite part of the opening was being able to welcome people into the store and allow them to see how the space is transformed. “All of our shops are very similar, but each one has its own character,” she said. “So, it’s always kind of fun to do your debut to everybody because nobody has seen it till then.”

Interior of the store, looking toward the front
The Midway store’s launch had a few new additions to the Spotz menu, including dipped and rolled cones. Richardson said that those menu items will eventually be “launching in all stores, but Midway was the first to have them.”

The Midway menu also featured vegan gelato, another new menu item. “Our strawberry flavor was what we had on hand,” Richardson said. “It’s always great when you make up new flavors and then people actually get to try them. That’s one of the best parts about what we do.”

She said that everyone seemed to be really happy with their choices and that the vegan option went over well. “We dipped a zillion cones,” she said, “so the dipped and rolled cones were a big hit too.”

Richardson said the most popular flavors for the night were cookies and cream, peanut butter and banana pudding, which she says is based on her mother’s recipe.

Richardson said she and her husband make everything themselves, and most of the recipes are hers. “I may think it tastes great,” she said, “but if I see somebody else taste it and enjoy it, that’s the best part about what I do.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Council hears first reading of annexation, re-establishes Tree Board, plans to have next meeting in person

By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council gave first reading Monday night to an ordinance of intent annex the property between Midway Grocery and Northridge Estates, the site of a planned housing development.

The council also approved two event permits, named members to the revived Tree Board, de-annexed 27 acres along Georgetown Road and heard their next meeting would be in person at City Hall, rather than by Zoom.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift explained the process and reasons for annexing the seven and a half acres owned by Northside Homes, a company owned by Mike and Scott Bradley that plans to build about 60 townhouses in groups of three that would be attached by breezeways. The property is surrounded by the city limits and has never been inside them.

“I want to make very clear to everyone that there are two main reasons to annex the property owned by Northside Homes,” the mayor said. The main reason, he said, is so the council can be the legislative body that eventually decides the rezoning that the Bradleys’ plan needs in order to proceed.

Map of city limits shows the "island," most of which is to be annexed.
The other reason, the mayor said, is that the property is “something that’s been a thorn in the city’s side for a long time, you know, having this island you can’t control when the grass gets up above 12 inches.” 

He said that when the plans for the property became known, a former council member told him to “make sure you use this opportunity to finally annex that land.” 

Kentucky cities can’t annex land without approval of 55 percent of the residents, and the property to be annexed has had only two residents, who sold it to the Bradleys and moved.

Vandegrift showed the council a map of the city’s zoning and city limits, saying “I think our boundaries look like an eagle, like a Midway University eagle.” Referring to the tract not in the city, he said “The poor eagle has a hole right in its heart.”

He said that he spoke with the owners of both homes that are in the “island” but not in the Bradleys’ tract. One couple “sounded interested in being brought in as well,” but “that would be a separate ordinance.” The other homeowners do not wish to be annexed, he said.

The annexation will require four readings, the first two for the intent to annex and the second to accomplish the actual annexation of the property.

The mayor said the county Planning Department told him Monday that the first hearing on the rezoning would be held in Midway in June, with Covid-19 protocols in place. “We are currently trying to secure the location.” he said. “We have tentative approval but it does require a final approval that would come on April 20 from the session of the church we have reached out to.” 

The second reading and passage of the intent to annex is scheduled for April 19, at the next council meeting. Vandegrift said twice that annexation does not mean that the council will rezone the tract.

The Bradleys say their homes would sell for $130,000, which would add greatly to the city’s stock of affordable housing. Council Member Stacy Thurman, who chairs the Affordable Housing Task Force, said she would like to see $5,000 included in the next budget for a housing needs assessment.        

De-annexation: The council passed the ordinance de-annexing about 30 acres at 1132 Georgetown Road, owed by Mike Freeny, so a warehouse being built there will not have to be on the sewer system, which would require an expensive pump station.

In return for the de-annexation, Freeny has agreed to donate 16 acres of his property, bordering the east end of Midway Station, so the city can create a public access point for South Elkhorn Creek.

Tree Board: In proposing appointees for the Tree Board up to the council. “We have had a tree board on the books in Midway for quite some time but it sorta fallen quiet and we’re trying to revamp it.” 

The Tree Board is charged with doing an inventory of trees in the city, creating a plan for planting and not planting, applying to become an official tree city and settle disputes among property owners about trees that on boundary lines.

The appointments have specific criteria. One must be a landscape architect, who can come from outside the city if one is not available. That will be Josh DeSpain, a senior landscaper at RossTarrant Architects in Lexington, where Midway resident Debra Shockley works.

The other appointees approved were arborist/forester Ross Raterman, owner of Dave Leonard Tree Specialists;, Rich Schein, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and a board member the last time it was active; horticulturalist county extension agent Faye Kousman;, Council Member Sara Hicks;, a member at large, Hank Pinkerman; and a member of the Midway Woman’s Club, Bethany Langdon.

Events: The first event permit approved was for RaceRise LLC and a race sponsored by Ambrose Wilson and Bob Barney. The funds raised will help provide dolls to children in need, an effort Wilson started after the passing of his wife, Karen.

“That was a big passion of Karen Wilson’s,” Vandegrift said. “She thought that every kid who wants one should have a doll, especially Christmas time.”

The race will start in Walter Bradley Park at 8 a.m. May 22.

The other permit was for a Love Real Wellness race in Northridge Estates and uses sidewalks. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Celebrate Recovery. Council Member Stacy Thurman, who manages the library, told the event coordinator, Adam Reid, that the library would be open at 9 a.m. Saturday and participants could use its restrooms there if they needed.

The race will be held at 9 a.m. June 12 with sign-up starting at 8 a.m.

Pandemic: The mayor also mentioned that those who are 18 and older could now get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at Railroad Drug. In an email to the Messenger, Ken Glass, the co-owner of Railroad Drug, said the pharmacy is giving vaccinations as they receive vaccine doses. “We still have about 50 left as of right now,” he said. “We typically ask people to call us and let us know what time of day they can come in the same day they want to receive it.” He added that they give the vaccines from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m.

After confirming that all members of the council are “double vaccinated,” Vandegrift said the next council meeting will be in person at City Hall. It will be the first in-person meeting since last March. The mayor said the public may attend but will have to wear a mask the entire time, and council members will wear masks except when they are speaking, and chairs will be socially distanced. He concluded, “That’s another little milestone of getting closer to normal.”

UPDATE: Vandegrift said Wednesday that the council's second budget workshop would be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 13 via Zoom. He said in an email, "We’ll have two items to discuss at this workshop: a specified request for funds from the Parks Board (I put the amount of $7,500 in previously, in lieu of their official request, but they have that prepared now, so they will present that.) We'll also have a presentation from Mosquito Mate. Line item action may be taken." The company wants to use the city as a pilot project for its biological control of the insects.

Railroad Drug has coronavirus vaccine by appointment

Railroad Drug is offering the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the novel coronavirus, by appointment. Call 846-4146 to schedule an appointment.

The drug store passes along information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: It is NOT recommended you take over-the-counter medicine – such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen – before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent vaccine-related side effects. It is not known how these medications might affect how well the vaccine works. However, if you take these medications regularly for other reasons, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated. It is also not recommended to take antihistamines before getting a vaccine to try to prevent allergic reactions. If you have questions about medications that you are taking, talk to your doctor or your vaccination provider. More information is at https://www.cdc.gov/.../different-vaccines/janssen.html.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Council to hear ordinance annexing 'island' planned for housing development that would require rezoning

Zoning map shows most of property isn't in city limits, marked by red line.
Lots at the enclave's northwest and southeast corners wouldn't be annexed. 
By Lauren McCally
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway City Council will hear an ordinance Monday night to annex the land between the Midway Grocery and Northridge Estates, so it can control zoning for a planned housing development.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the current zoning for detached, single-family homes doesn’t fit the plan of Mike and Scott Bradley, which is for “townhouses” in groups of three that would be attached by breezeways.

Vandegrift said he wasn’t sure what sort of zoning would fit, but he said the council needs to annex the land so it can decide the zoning.

Some residents may be surprised that the area isn't already in the city. “Having that island in the middle of the city that isn’t actually in the city limits has caused some issues in the past,” Vandegrift said, “so having a more contiguous city boundary is a benefit to the city and our residents.”

More contiguous, but not completely contiguous. The annexation would create two small non-city islands, or enclaves. Vandegrift said owners of a tract in the northwest corner of the current enclave oppose annexation, and any annexation of a smaller tract in the southeast corner would be separate. (This paragraph has been corrected to distinguish between the two tracts.)

In June of last year, the tract to be developed was bought by Mike and Scott Bradley, sons of Chuck and Shirley Bradley of Georgetown, who had sold the grocery a few months earlier.

Mike Bradley said Friday that the plan isn’t complete, because engineers are still working on drainage, but it will have small, two-story homes. “Our biggest goal is to make sure that not only do we not make the water problem in that area worse as far as storm drainage goes, but we actually improve it overall, so that’s kinda the priority,” he said. Once that is done, he said, they can figure out what space is left to be developed.

Woodford County’s townhouse regulations call for lot sizes of not less than 1,900 square feet and housing units of at least 890 square feet. Vandegrift said the Bradleys’ current plan is for 1,200-square-foot townhouses, with off-street parking (including garage space, not to be counted as housing space) for at least two cars each.

In an R-3 zone, which appears to be the one that fits the tentative plan, no more than 11 units per acre are allowed. The property plat shows it covers 7.48 acres, so the limit would be 82 units, but that does not include space for drainage retention, which will be needed, Vandegrift said.

The mayor said the latest number he has heard the Bradleys are planning is 60, which could mean 20 groups of three. He said the planned sale price of each unit is $130,000.

The residential development would be one of the largest in the city since the mid-1990, when the development of Northridge Estates was completed. The city has a shortage of affordable housing, so much that the City Council has created a committee to address the issue.

Vandegrift said the county Planning Commission would hold public hearings on the plan “somewhere in Midway in the May-June time frame.”

He explained, “If Planning and Zoning, after hearing public comment, eventually decides to recommend the seven-plus acres be rezoned to the appropriate residential distinction, then a legislative body will be the ones to decide that rezoning.” If the council doesn’t annex the property, then the body would be the county Fiscal Court.

“I think that everyone would agree that this is a decision that should be made by the Midway City Council,” he said. “Annexing this would ensure that.”

Bradley said he didn’t think the council would look Monday at what might be going on the property, only hearing first reading of the annexation ordinance. Two readings are required before passage.

Bradley said he has had some conversations with people who live near the property, but he couldn’t “get into depth” because there aren’t a lot of specifics yet.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of questions,” he said, “but until we have a plan that we can all look at together and go over, it’s kind of hard to known what those questions would be.”

When the Bradleys announced their purchase and general plan last June, Mike Bradley said, “We will work hard to come up with a design befitting Midway, and one that will remain as attractive in future years as it will be new. Affordable housing designed for individual owners, attractive smaller homes with very nice finishes.”

His wife, Missy Bright Bradley, said in the press release, “Whatever the final design of the neighborhood is, I want to make it truly a part of Midway, something my mother would be proud of, something young families could afford so they could enjoy growing up in Midway as much as I did.”

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Ouita Michel talks about her new cookbook, changes at Holly Hill and her restaurants surviving the pandemic

By Lauren McCally

University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Chef Ouita Michel’s new cookbook, Just a Few Miles South, is coming out April 27 and will feature many of the recipes used at her restaurants. Michel talked with the Messenger about the book, the pandemic and changes at the Holly Hill Inn, the first restaurant she and her husband Chris opened.

The cookbook is co-written and edited by Sara Gibbs and Genie Graf, who work for the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, and is the top new release in professional cooking on Amazon. It was also mentioned in a Food & Wine magazine story, "23 Spring Cookbooks We’re Adding to Our Shelves."

“It took six years to write the book,” Michel said. “We wanted to make sure the recipes were right, so it took a while to write the table of contents and figure out what [was] going to be in the book,” and to reduce some recipes to household-size. It's being published by the University Press of Kentucky.

So, why did she want to write a book in the first place? “Once you get to a certain point in your career, I think you really want to document some of the things you’ve done,” said Michel, 56. She added that people have been asking for a book, and that as she gets older, she wants to write more.

The book’s intriguing title is a story in itself. “One of the first businesses that Chris and I worked in, after chefs’ school, was a little deli in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, and it was called Plain & Fancy Deli, and it was sort of the inspiration for Wallace Station,” their deli south of Midway.

Ouita Michel (Image from Zoom interview)
“I said that we often felt like Wallace Station was like the sister of Plain & Fancy Deli, just a few miles south. And so that was what gave rise to the title, ‘cause we’re not necessarily real Southern in Kentucky, but we are miles south of a lot of people, so it felt like it could communicate place without --- the press did not want the name Kentucky to be in the title, because they wanted to appeal to a broad audience, so we had to come up with something that communicated Kentucky, but wasn’t Kentucky.”

For Michel, the thing that makes Kentucky cuisine stand out is its deep agricultural tradition. She said that tradition has been refreshed by money from the lawsuit settlement that states made with cigarette manufacturers, because Kentucky put half of its share into agriculture as the federal tobacco program of quotas and price supports was ending.

“We were able to use a lot of that money to help farmers diversify their crops and grow a lot of varieties of things,” many of which find their way into Michel’s recipes. She is known nationally as a supporter of local food, and she said a farmer on her staff makes sure all the restaurants have local produce.

“What we need to do is celebrate all those things that are uniquely Kentucky, sorghum, blackberries, hickory nuts, all those things that pepper our food that make it really special.”

Asked for a favorite recipe, she thought a moment and picked one that might be surprising: “I’m a big pimento cheese fan, so the pimento cheese recipe might be my favorite.”

She added that she loves soup beans and cornbread, so those were also included, and “There will be a lot of people really happy to see our lemon bar recipe in there, because it’s been a secret recipe for so long.”

Ray Papka
Michel described some renovations at Holly Hill Inn, including an art gallery displaying the work of her father, Ray Papka, which will have a grand opening on June 5.

“My father was a scientist for years and retired early into art,” Michel said. The art is encaustic paintings, also known as hot wax painting, which uses found objects and heated beeswax with pigments added to it. “They’re really cool pieces,” she said, adding that it is “quite something to see” and “a kind of father-daughter project.”

Holly Hill is also building a new deck and launching a new menu concept that emphasizes the links between food and art. “We have a lot of new tricks up our sleeves, so it’s going to be exciting to see what Chef Tyler [McNabb] comes up with,” she said.

The reopening will come after a year in which Holly Hill was open only for takeout and outdoor dining and saw its revenues sink to 30 to 40 percent of normal due to the pandemic. Her other restaurants also suffered, and without two rounds of forgivable loans from pandemic relief funds, “We would have gone under.”

The big exception was Midway Bakery, which “did better in the pandemic than they did the year before, and a lot of that was from their mail-in order cookie project,” she said.

“Our business is already increasing quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, since we’ve gotten to Daylight Savings Time,” she said, “and the problem for us now is getting staffed and getting people back to work.”

Now, with the weather improving and more people being vaccinated, they are ready eat out, she said. “Everyone’s like ‘Oh, sunshine, let’s go, let’s go and have a burger out at Wallace and sit at the picnic tables.”

She told Business Lexington that one outcome of the pandemic was a monthly Zoom meeting of women business owners in the hospitality industry. She told the Messenger, “We all have the same kinds of concerns, we all raise families. I don’t feel particularly discriminated against, but . . . the pandemic made it pretty clear who bore the brunt of educating the kids, making the household work and all, that kind of thing.”Michel closed the interview by thanking her neighbors.

“I feel like our community has really, really supported us and we’re eternally grateful to them, for everybody in Midway who’s gotten out at Wallace and at the bakery and at Holly Hill. It’s been really tremendous and of course we had the Midway Bucks, so the City Council really came out and supported all the restaurants and local shops . . . I thought that was innovative and I’m just proud, I’m proud to live here. I love living here and I love our town, and really can’t imagine living anywhere else. So, hopefully, I’ll be a really old lady sitting on the front porch of Holly Hill Inn.”