Thursday, September 30, 2021

Renaissance grants will help garden and oral history project, replace school tree; $1,500 still available

The first three micro-grants awarded by Midway Renaissance Inc. will help the community garden and the Midway Oral History Project, and replace the Memory Tree at Northside Elementary School.

“It’s exciting that this funding will help these ideas develop,” Christy Reaves, president of MRI, said in a news release. “The motivation behind these grants is to provide the funds needed to bring projects to fruition and leave a lasting affect for the citizens of Midway.”

The Midway Community Garden is in its 14th year. (File photo, 2018)
Each grant is for $250. The grant to the community garden will go toward purchase of two steel-framed picnic tables to complement the all-volunteer flower and vegetable garden behind Midway Presbyterian Church. The grant was requested by the Rev. Mary Weese, pastor of the church.

The Memory Tree, which was located near the school playground, was a place for students and staff to share memories. It was damaged in June 2020 and removed this year. Emory Marsh wrote Northside Principal Scott Hundley to ask if a new memory tree could be planted and he agreed.

The oral history project requested funds for photographs of all participants who have contributed oral histories about Midway. The photos will become a traveling exhibit that promotes awareness of the project and puts faces with those who made recordings. The photos, along with a quote from each individual, will be portable to enable display at different locations, such as the library and schools. From 15 to 18 photo prints are anticipated depending on the number of interviews conducted over the next seven months.

Renaissance, a membership organization that supports and promotes enriched community in Midway, earmarked $2,250 for micro grants. Funding will continue until the remaining $1,500 in funds are exhausted and must be used as approved. Applications will be reviewed and announced within 45 days of receipt. Grants may round out or match other money and the project must be completed by June 30, 2022. Photos that document the project’s completion must accompany the required final expense report.

Applicants approved for the first round of funding will be ineligible for the successive round. The application form is available on the MRI website (https://midwayrenaissance.com/), can be requested by email to MidwayKyRenaissance@gmail.com or by calling 606-831-1714. For more information about MRI, contact the group at MidwayKyRenaissance@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

October will be National Arts and Humanities Month

L to R: Local artist Lori Meadows, City Council Member Sara Hicks, Council Member Mary Raglin, Debra Shockley, Council Member and Midway Librarian Stacy Thurman, and local artist Ray Papka stood behind Mayor Grayson Vandegrift as he declared October to be National Arts and Humanities Month in Midway. The banner hanging behind them features artwork by local artist Debbie Graviss.

The proclamation notes the cultural and economic contributions of the arts and humanities and the "devastating impact" of the pandemic on the arts sector of the economy, and calls on community members to celebrate and promote the arts and culture and encourage them to take action for the arts and humanities in their localities.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Bridge in park is now named for Holloway, who built it

Raindrops speckled the plaque at the center of one bridge rail. (Photos by City Council Member Stacy Thurman) 
Holloway talked with former mayor and state representative Carl Rollins at the bridge.
The bridge that former Walter Bradley Park manager John Holloway and other volunteers built across Lee Branch, greatly improving access to the park, was named for him in a ceremony at the park today.

Holloway also served a term on the City Council but did not seek re-election last year. He has also retired as a professor in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky.

A video of the ceremony is on the Messenger Facebook page and the park's page.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Forum on RV resort plan Oct. 14 at Midway University

Plan for Woodford County portion of resort, from economic and fiscal study presented to City Council

The public forum on the proposed recreational-vehicle resort proposed for South Elkhorn Creek will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 at the Anne Hart Raymond Auditorium at Midway University.

The City of Midway will hold the event as the City Council considers the request of Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort for sewer service, perhaps water service and likely annexation, since the city has had a policy of not extending sewers outside the city limits. For details, from this week's council meeting, click here.

In announcing the forum, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he would put the request on the agenda for the council's next meeting after the event, scheduled for Monday, Oct. 18, and "I expect the council to vote on it at that meeting."

The proposal for one of the largest RV parks in the eastern United States has stirred considerable opposition, with the main objections being the size of the development and its effects on traffic and the environment. The resort has received a conditional-use permit from the Woodford County Board of Adjustment to operate in an agricultural zone, and is seeking a similar permit in Scott County.

The developers recently reduced the number of RV sites planned for the Woodford County part of the property, for a total of 395. However, the 77 sites removed from the original plan would be restored in its second development phase, if the developers do not get approval from Scott County. The plan for Scott County includes more than 1,000 sites, but most of those would not be created until the third phase of development, in five to eight years, developer Joey Svec told the council Sept. 8.

The forum had been scheduled for Sept. 9, but was postponed due to a surge in the pandemic. Vandegrift indicated at Monday's council meeting that the forum might have to be held virtually, but he said in an email Wednesday that was not the better choice.

"After careful consideration, hosting the forum virtually presents too many difficulties and may not give a clear enough picture of public feedback," he wrote. "But given the size of the auditorium, in addition to mandatory masking inside the center, Woodford County Public Health Director Cassie Prather advises there exists enough layers of protection to prevent spread. This date also coincides with the university’s fall break, so campus will be nearly empty and parking will be ample." He also said the 424-seat auditorium offers room for social distancing.

Vandegrift said the forum will include "a brief 15 minute overview of the argument from representatives of KBER and a brief 15 minute overview of the argument from representatives of the group known as 'Concerned Citizens in Midway, Kentucky'," which has hired a Lexington lawyer to make their case.

"The rest of the forum will be reserved for public comment," Vandegrift wrote. "Comments will be limited to three minutes per person, in the interest of time. All commenters must state their name and where they live for the record, but no one will be prevented from speaking so long as they meet those requirements and our public health requirements."

The forum will be moderated by Tad Long of Kentucky League of Cities, who has moderated other forums in Midway. He will also read comments submitted in writing before the forum.

Vandegrift said "Anyone who wishes to not attend but would still like to have a statement read may submit a brief statement, in writing, to sonya@meetmeinmidway.com, or can mail to City of Midway, PO Box 4275, Midway KY 40347. Please include 'Public Forum' in the subject or letter so we know it’s intended to be read on the 14th." He said Long may edit the comments in the interest of time.

Asked if the comments may include questions for those on either side of the issue, Vandegrift told the Messenger, "Our intention right now is to not have any back and forth. I suspect that if a question is raised that is novel, then myself or one of the council members may ask for an answer on the 18th."

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

RV resort says it needs state aid and wants council backing, may buy water from Kentucky-American and doesn't seek annexation unless required for sewers

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Developers of the proposed recreational-vehicle resort on South Elkhorn Creek told the Midway City Council Monday evening that they are not seeking annexation "at this time," but if the council reaffirms the city's policy of not extending sewers beyond the city limits, "We would agree to that condition."

The Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort also said that it was not currently seeking water service from the city, since its site has direct access to a line of Kentucky American Water Co., the city's wholesale water supplier.

However, the developers presented an economic and fiscal analysis that assumes the Woodford County part of the property "will be annexed and we would buy our water service from the city of Midway," their attorney, Hank Graddy of Midway, told the council.

Graddy also revealed that the developers plan to seek state aid "to assist in bridging some of the financial gap in the project." He said such aid "will be necessary to be able to construct the tourist attraction we have proposed," and when they apply, they will ask the council to endorse the application.

So, the council has four potential questions before it, all somewhat in flux: water service, sewer service, annexation and support for state aid. Also in the mix are the economic benefits to the city and the area, countered by many citizens' concerns about the size and impact of the proposed development.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said after the meeting that the developers' approach to annexation confused him, and that he was surprised by other aspects of their proposal.

"I told them a few months ago that I would not move forward with annexation unless the council agreed to provide sewer service first," Vandegrift said in an email. "If the council votes not to provide sewer, then annexation is moot. To move forward with an annexation ordinance before the council votes on the question at hand (sewer service) would be presumptuous. Perhaps that confused the matter for them. Either way, annexation is moot if the question of sewer is denied."

Vandegrift said he was surprised by the developers' intent to buy water directly from Kentucky American, something he learned about 30 minutes before the meeting, and their need for state aid.

"It’s a bit of detriment to tell us you don’t want to buy water from us," he said. "Going around the city to buy directly from KAW is disadvantageous to the city. But perhaps they simply don’t understand this."

UPDATE, Sept. 22: Midway resident SaraDay Evans noted in an email to the mayor and council Wednesday that one condition of the conditional-use permit that the resort received to operate in an agricultural zone is that “All campsites and facilities shall have City public water and sewer.” She said Planning and Zoning Administrator Pattie Wilson told her that the Board of Adjustment could amend the permit upon application by the resort after a public hearing.

For state economic-development aid, "Typically the endorsement comes from my office, in a signed letter from me," Vandegrift said. "But I feel it would be inappropriate to enter into any endorsement until the sewer question is settled."

The council was to have held a public forum on the proposal Sept. 9, but it was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he is seeking available dates from Midway University between Oct. 8 and 25, but "The way the virus is going, it looks like we're gonna have to do something virtual," as recent council meetings have been, rather than in person.

Map from traffic study shows property proposed for RV resort. To enlarge, click on it.
The developers' analysis of the project's economic impact, and its fiscal benefit to the city in the first phase of development, was prepared by Commonwealth Economics, a Lexington consulting firm.

The analysis estimated that in the first 10 years of the project, it would pay the city $258,614 in property taxes and $1,045,793 in occupational tax, $364,480 of that for the construction phase. It said construction would employ 340 people and the resort would have 86 employees.

Incorrectly, the analysis said lodging taxes paid by resort visitors would bring Midway almost $290,000 over 10 years. Vandegrift noted that the tax is paid to the county tourism commission, and that the city does not get a dedicated share of it, as the analysis incorrectly presumed. Commonwealth Economics partner Casey Bolton said, "We were trying to look at the overall benefits to the community" and the lodging tax gets divided "theoretically." Before he was corrected, Bolton had said, "That gets split up between the city and the county, as we understand."

Bolton painted a favorable picture of the recreational-vehicle industry, saying it has grown during the pandemic, with manufacturing and use of RVs setting records, and the average age of RV owners is getting younger.

Graddy presented a revised traffic study, which he said corrected an error that stemmed from use of original figures for the number of RV sites in Woodford County. The developers have said the number of sites in the county would be reduced by 77 if Scott County authorizes 150 sites north of the creek.

Other business: Halloween, housing study, Covid-19 case

The council set trick or treat for 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. That will not be a school night, Vandegrift noted, because Woodford County schools have a professionals' learning day on Monday, Nov. 1.

The council discussed a proposal for a housing needs assessment from the Center for Economic Development in Kentucky, a program of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. It would probably be done in cooperation with Versailles and perhaps the county Fiscal Court, so the council deferred action.

In a related matter, Vandegrift noted that developer Mike Bradley has proposed to build 13 traditional homes on eight acres on Northside Drive instead of the 68 "town homes" that drew much opposition. Bradley's plan depends on getting easements from the Northridge Estates homeowners' association, which has a volunteer board that is "not easy to get together," said the mayor, who lives there.

Vandegrift thanked a long list of people for a "very successful, well-run" festival over the weekend. "Spirits were as high as I've ever seen them at the Midway Fall Festival," he said.

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said Cypress Creek Farm parked 1,320 vehicles Saturday and 1,015 Sunday, 83 of them for the early-morning Iron Horse Half Marathon. Subtracting those vehicles and estimating 3.5 people per vehicle, the crowd parked at the farm totaled 7,882. Vehicles also parked in a $10 lot at Kentucky Cannabis Co. and voluntary-pay lots at local churches.

Vandegrift opened the meeting by asking for a moment of silence and prayers for volunteer firefighter Michael Underwood, 25, who is fighting Covid-19 and has been on mechanical ventilation since last Wednesday. He said Underwood is "hanging in there" but is "fighting for his life right now."

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Festival crowds down, but 'I'm not sure we'd want them to be much bigger,' due to the pandemic, mayor says

Saturday was hot and humid; Sunday was humid, but cloudy and cooler, and the rain held off until the festival was over.
Story and photos by Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Midway Fall Festival had smaller crowds, but good crowds. And in some ways they were better crowds, said Cortney Neikirk, president of the Midway Business Association, which sponsors it.

"All the crafts vendors were up in sales," Neikirk said Sunday night. "I think part of that is because people were able to get in their booths, because they weren't crowded." That was not just due to the smaller crowd, but the extra spacing between booths to limit crowding during the pandemic.

The shady courtyard, used to spread out vendors, proved popular with vendors and visitors.
The festival moved many booths to the courtyard between Main and Martin streets, and the shady site proved popular, especially on Saturday, which had hotter weather than Sunday. "The vendors didn't seem to mind being down there, because it was so  much cooler," Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said.

Neikirk said Sunday's cloudy weather made that day's crowd better than usual. She speculated that the crowd was down not only due to the pandemic, but the University of Kentucky football game in Lexington early Saturday afternoon.

She said she had not checked parking figures yet, but estimated that the overall crowd was between half and two-thirds of usual. Vandegrift said he thought it was better than two-thirds.

"I'm not sure we'd want them to be much bigger than that this year," due to the pandemic, said the mayor, who issued an order requiring people in indoor public places to wear masks during the festival.

"I think a vast majority of the businesses did a really good job with the indoor mask order," he said, adding that some liked the extra spacing between vendors because it gave better display to their storefronts. "I thought it was a very successful festival." It was not held last year due to the pandemic.

Artian Gharazian (right), senior vice president of distribution for Lakeshore Learning
Materials, who is based in California, talked with local operations director Steve Gregory. 
Neikirk, who ran her own kettle-corn booth, said, "Overall, it was a great show. We had no major issues."

One new booth, in front of City Hall, was for Lakeshore Learning Materials, which has become the city's largest employer but had a booth because it is looking for more workers.

Director of Operations Steve Gregory said the company's eastern distribution center, in Midway Station, has an hourly payroll of 320 but is looking for 55 more employees for the holiday season.

"We're growing," Gregory said. "Business is great." The company recently opened a second building, and Gregory said it has plans for a third on property it recently bought.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Bourbon Burn, big cycling event, coming Sept. 24-26

An expected 900 cyclists from across the nation will be in Midway and other parts of the Bluegrass Sept. 24-26 for the fourth annual Bourbon Burn, a bicycling tour of distilleries and horse farms.

Midway is on four of the five routes planned for Saturday, Sept. 25, and may be on at least one route on Sunday; routes for that day have not been finalized. Saturday's routes range in length from 27 to 107 miles; the two longer routes also include Frankfort.

Other communities that will see cyclists on the roads include Lexington, Versailles, Paris, and the outskirts of Georgetown. "Please pass cyclists safely and respectfully, and remember that it is the law in Kentucky to give cyclists three feet when you pass," event organizers ask in a press release. "You may want to consider leaving early to ensure that you’re not late in arriving at your final destination."

The Bourbon Burn is seeking volunteers to support a variety of roles, including drivers and aid-station volunteers. To learn more, please contact info@bourbonburn.com.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mayor issues mask mandate for indoor public spaces downtown during Midway Fall Festival Sat. and Sun.

This is the first page of the mayor's order; the full order is downloadable here.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism & Media

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift issued an order Wednesday evening requiring masks to be worn in indoor public spaces downtown from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday, encompassing the hours of the Midway Fall Festival, which is set for 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Vandegrift said in his proclamation tonight that most business owners "wish to see a temporary mask mandate in place in order to protect citizens of Midway, visitors to Midway, and themselves" when thousands of people are expected in town.

Businesses were already free to require masks on their premises, but they wanted the collective cover of an official mandate, Vandegrift told the Midway Messenger Wednesday night. On Sunday, he said he thought businesses would be "very good at enforcing" mask wearing indoors, but left open the option of issuing a mask mandate, and said he would talk with all businesses, especially restaurants, and encourage them to require masks.

Vandegrift's proclamation says "Any business owner who may encounter a patron that refuses to comply with this order should first politely ask that person to leave the premises of the establishment. If said person refuses, they can call the Versailles Police Department non-emergency dispatch at 859-873-3126 and an officer will ask said person to leave or potentially face criminal trespassing Level 3 charges."

The proclamation cites Woodford County Public Health Director Cassie Prather's recommendation that masks should be worn indoors, with the exception of seated patrons eating or drinking in restaurants. That is the exception to the mandate. The proclamation says "numerous scientific studies" have shown that masks slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The proclamation says the Delta variant of the virus "is being highly spread" and is causing "shortages of resources to care for patients" in hospitals, and notes that as many as 15,000 people from across Kentucky typically attend the festival.

The Midway Business Association, which puts on the festival, is moving more than 40 of the approximately 200 booths to the old bank lot and the courtyard between Main and Martin streets and putting space between booths.

Vandegrift said that according to festival coordinator Elisha Holt, "Some booths will be five feet apart, others 11 feet, depending on what’s appropriate (if it’s a space or an actual vendor). Also, giant 20-foot food trucks that only have a small window in the middle basically space themselves. There will be 5 to 10 feet between any area where folks would be standing in line or looking."

Vandegrift said Sunday that attendance at this year's event, the 47th annual, is hard to predict due to the threat posed by the virus. The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a 30 percent chance of rain and a high of 82; Sunday's forecast is for partly cloudy and 84.

UPDATE, Sept. 16: Vandegrift told businesses in an email this morning, "With the potential to have 10,000 or more people in downtown Midway, I feel it is only right and proper, and I appreciate your support. We will print laminated signs for you to place on your door and will get them to you Thursday or Friday. Let's have a fun and safe weekend."

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Midway University reports record enrollment of new undergraduates; incoming freshman class is 40% male

Midway University’s overall enrollment for the fall semester is 1,827, marking the sixth straight year of growth and record enrollment of new undergraduates, 292, up nine from 283 last year. The school began admitting male students in fall 2017. The new class is 40 percent male.

“As many institutions across the nation have seen enrollment declines both in incoming students and with their retention, I am pleased to share the news that Midway University is continuing our growth trajectory," President John P. Marsden said in a news release.

Rusty Kennedy, vice president for admissions and athletics, said in the release, “We attribute a lot of our continued growth to our efforts to remain one of the state’s most affordable private institutions, not having raised our tuition in several years. Another factor is our strong retention rate which shows we are providing an academic setting that is appealing to students."

Most Midway students are not traditional undergraduates, who number 735. The total enrollment of 1,827 includes all evening and online students, undergraduate and graduate, and dual-credit students.

The grade-point average of the new class is 3.41, the news release said. In-state students are 61.9% of the class, 33.6% are from other states and 4.5% are from other countries.

The release also provided updates on campus improvements. “This summer, Buster Residence Hall underwent renovations on each floor replacing community style bathrooms with pod-style, individual bathrooms and adding a new laundry facility on the ground floor,” Marsden said. “Additionally, we completely rebuilt the tennis court complex by replacing the existing playing surface, fencing and lights as well as making some locker room renovations in the McManis Student Center. We also learned during the previous year and dealing with Covid, that we needed additional outdoor seating areas, so new furniture has been placed all around campus.”

The release said the improvements and others over the last three years – including the Tracy Farmer-Don Ball Stadium, Hunter Field House, conversion of Pinkerton Hall to a residence hall, renovating Marrs Hall and renovating bathrooms in Belle Wisdom Residence Hall – were done without new debt.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fall Festival will spread out to reduce spread of virus

To download a copy of the poster for enlarging or printing, right-click on it.
The Midway Fall Festival will resume this year, after missing last year due to the pandemic, but will look a little different because the coronavirus is more contagious than ever, affecting vaccinated people.

At least 40 of the approximately 200 festival booths will be moved off Main Street, to the old bank lot and the courtyard between Main and Martin streets, festival coordinator Elisha Holt told the Midway Business Association, which puts on the festival, at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday.

Holt said the courtyard would be the base for golf carts used for shuttling to and from parking lots, helping funnel pedestrian traffic through the courtyard, which has stairs to Main Street.

She said booths would be about a car-length apart. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Messenger that the spacing would be "six to 10 feet for sure, probably closer to 10." The intent? Social distancing.

"You're not gonna have the crush of people piled on top of each other," Vandegrift said. "The last thing you want coming out of this is some kind of spread event" for the virus. "Our whole goal is to put on a safe and fun festival."

That is possible, Vandegrift said he came to believe, after discussing the plans with Cassie Prather, director of the Woodford County Health Department. Her agency will provide gallon jugs of hand sanitizer for the festival, with the MBA paying for the pumps. All festival activities will be outdoors.

Vendors will be asked to wear masks, and "We're also supposed to strongly suggest that inside stores require masks," MBA President Cortney Neikirk told the members at Wednesday's meeting.

Vandegrift told the Messenger that he expects businesses to be "very good at enforcing" mask wearing indoors, based on what Neikirk has told him about their plans -- and their performance during the pandemic, with no outbreaks or "super-spreader" restaurants or events.

The mayor said he would talk to all the businesses this week, encouraging them to require masks, especially restaurants, where "I don't see that happening" so far. When masks were mandated statewide, there was an exception for people eating or drinking, but all had to be seated, not gathered at bars.

"I think everybody will pull together to make sure we keep the people safe," Vandegrift said. If not, he could issue a mask mandate, but that has "become so politicized, the best way is to do as a group."

He some shops will probably close for the festival. "Everybody has to do what they're comfortable with," he said, adding that it's hard to predict attendance. He said Millville Daze over the weekend had less attendance than usual, probably because people are wary with the state's high infection rate.

Woodford County has the state's highest rate of vaccination for Covid-19, with 75.31 percent of residents having received at least one dose of vaccine, and its infection rate is relatively low, at 62 daily cases per 100,000 residents. The statewide vaccination rate is 58%; the infection rate is just under 82 per 100,000.

Adjoining counties also have relatively low infection rates and high vaccination rates: Fayette, 65 per 100,000 and 70.64%; Franklin, 80/100K and 74.54%; Jessamine, 75.5/100K and 56.48%; Anderson, 46.5/100K and 58.88%; and Scott, 44/100K and 66.09%. The exception is Mercer, with 113/100K and 55.42%.

Main Street will close Friday at 7 a.m. for booth setup, and all vendors must be checked in by 6 p.m., Holt said.

Debra Shockley is recruiting volunteers to drive golf carts and keep City Hall and its restrooms open. Volunteers get a T-shirt. People wishing to volunteer can email her at shockleydebra333@yahoo.com.

A successful festival could help the business association finance a major project for the Christmas season, putting lights along the tops of buildings and in trees on Main Street. Neikirk said the work would cost at least $32,000 and the MBA would need to raise some extra money for it.

The city would probably kick in "a few thousand dollars," perhaps from the $490,000 it is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act, the latest federal pandemic relief bill, Vandegrift said.

He said the project "would really be cheered by many in the community, as well as visitors. . . . I think it would be a big draw and something everybody would enjoy."

Friday, September 10, 2021

Message from the mayor: Parks Board names new manager, creates new post to coordinate volunteers

Jeremy Divine and his dog in Walter Bradley Park (Photo provided)
Divine in close-up

By Grayson Vandegrift

Mayor, City of Midway

On behalf of the City of Midway, I want to thank and congratulate Jeremy Divine, who was elected by the Midway Parks Board to serve as park manager at last night’s park board meeting. Jeremy joined the board in January of this year and has quickly made his mark.

The board also created a new position, titled “Park Volunteer Coordinator,” and elected member Tiffany Marsh to that role. Both positions are completely volunteer.

Public Works Supervisor Nelson Wright has been working with the Parks Board on ways that our city employees can help lighten the load of maintaining Walter Bradley Park, which has quickly become widely recognized as one of the region's best. Ecogro, hired by the board, has also been very helpful in managing invasive species.

We thank John Holloway and his wife, Patty, for years of steadfast dedication to the improvement of this Midway jewel, an effort that has improved the quality of life for many.

Volunteer coordinator Tiffany Marsh
(Photo provided)

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

RV resort scales back and slows down its plan, but its foes still have plenty of talking points; sides plan to meet

Diagram of original plan shows roads and other features, but not concrete pads for recreational vehicles.
By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The developers of the big recreational-vehicle resort planned along South Elkhorn Creek have changed their plan, but that didn't impress the attorney for some citizens who have organized to oppose it.

"Not much has changed," lawyer Joe Childers of Lexington told the Midway City Council Tuesday evening. "Overall, it's the same proposal. It's gonna have the same large-scale impact on a small city, which is known to be a wonderful small city in Central Kentucky."

Hank Graddy of Midway, attorney for Kentucky Bluegrass Experience Resort, and co-developer Joey Svec spoke first to the council, which is being asked to annex the property and provide water and sewer service.

Svec said the developers have reduced the number of RV sites planned for the Woodford County part of the property, to 313 from 390, for a total of 395, including cottage-type sites and accommodations for owners and employees.

However, those 77 sites would be restored to the plan, in its second development phase, if the developers do not get approval from the Scott County Board of Adjustment to put 77 sites in the larger Scott County section of the property, developer Joey Svec said. The project has received a conditional-use permit for an agricultural-zone tourist destination from the Woodford County Board of Adjustment.

The plan for Scott County includes more than 1,000 sites, but most of those would not be created until the third phase of development, Svec said: "It would probably be five to eight years, at minimum, if it ever happens at all . . . so for now it would stay agricultural fields, and then as we continue to phase the project, Phase 1 and Phase 2, and prove to the citizens and the county and the cities that are around us that we can can operate and manage this thing well, then we'll look at a Phase 3 that would finish out the land."

Svec said the plan has also been changed to have a 500-foot scenic setback along Georgetown Road, with horse and dry-stone fences; and planting of more trees in wooded areas.

Engineer Adam Kirk's estimate of traffic sources
One major question about the proposal is its effect on traffic, particularly in the old part of Midway. The developers presented a traffic study predicting that 16 percent of their traffic would use US 62 through town, but their traffic engineer didn't make clear how he came up with that number, other than basing it on existing traffic on major roads in the area.

Engineer Adam Kirk said that with 545 sites in Woodford and Scott counties, at 100 percent occupancy, "a pretty rare event," the development would put 19 to 23 more vehicles per hour on US 62 in each direction on US 62, or about 42 more vehicles per hour.

Kirk estimated that at the busiest time for traffic in the area, late afternoon, the development would generate 147 trips per hour. He said if the property was developed as light industrial, like Midway Station across Georgetown Road, it would generate 630 trips during the peak hour. His report said the resort's occupancy would be "inverse of traditional peak traffic periods, with highest occupancy occurring during the weekends during the summer months, when overall traffic volumes are lower" because schools are not in session. He also told the council that its traffic would be spread throughout the day, without the typical peaks for arrival and departure times of employees.

The report said the predicted traffic volume did not meet state standards for a left-turn lane, but it recommended one. Developers pay for such construction. For a copy of the report, click here.

Kirk's report said the development would have "minimal" impact on Georgetown Road and the Interstate 64 interchange, but Childers said that was not the right word to use for the predicted traffic on US 62. "Winter Street cannot safely accommodate the hundreds of RV’s and cars that would be routed daily via GPS from the Bluegrass Parkway through downtown Midway to the RV park," he said.

The developers have said they would tell people making reservations that if they are coming from the southwest, they should leave the parkway at Lawrenceburg and take US 127 to I-64 at Frankfort.

Traffic was only one of nine talking points in a memorandum that Childers presented to the council for his clients, who are organized as "Concerned Citizens in Midway, Kentucky." The talking points, which Childers said were not in order of importance, were:
• Abuse of “Tourist Destination Expanded” conditional-use permit in Planning and Zoning ordinance
• Commercialization of agricultural land without zone change
• Size and scale of the proposed RV Park
• Traffic problems 
• Environmental impact
• Cost to Midway in terms of provision of services
• Minimal benefits to Midway and Woodford County
• Permanence of the development
• Long-term stays
The talking-points document can be downloaded here.

Childers said that even with the changes in the plan, "There are still nearly 900 sites being proposed. If all the sites are occupied by two persons each, this would be more people tan the entire population of Midway. However, the developer has said he cannot limit the number of persons per site on any given day. . . . Essentially this creates a subdivision in the city limits of Midway, if you choose to annex, with a density of 4.7 residences per acre."

He said the project would "permanently alter Elkhorn Creek's scenic character" and have a negative effect on air quality.

"Will taxpayers end up subsidizing the development?" Childers asked. "The benefits to Midway and Woodford County are minimal." He said the local tax on overnight stays goes to the county (actually, the county Tourism Commission).

Versailles Police Chief Mike Murray, who spoke just before Childers, said he met with the developers Aug. 11, and the development "certainly would be a nice resort park" with its own security force. "It's not gonna affect what we provide the City of Midway on police services," he said.

Childers noted that the developer has said that RVers will not be allowed to stay longer than six months. "What is someone leaves for one, two or three days? can they come back and start their six months over?" he asked. "Can someone leave an RV at the park after six months so long as someone else occupies it? Can an RV owner use their camper as an AirBnB accommodation?"

"The concern is that these RV parks may over time become residential," Childers said. "Citizens of Midway deserve answers to these questions if we are being asked to provide services to Kentucky Bluegrass Experience."

Graddy and Childers said they have agreed to convene a meeting with the developers and Childers' clients: Joyce Evans, Libby Jones, SaraDay Evans, Doug Farmer, Dottie Cordray, Chris Batt, Helen Rentch and George Baxter.

The city had planned to hold a public forum on the proposal Thursday night, but Mayor Grayson Vandegrift canceled it because of the surge of the pandemic. He said he would try to schedule it when the number of coronavirus cases drops, hopefully in October.

Graddy said the delay of the forum prompted the developers to delay their economic-impact study of the project, but they hope to present it to the council at its next meeting, on Sept. 20. He said some council members had accepted his invitation to have one-on-discussions with the developers, while "Others preferred to talk publicly."

In other business, the City Council renewed Wright Farm Service's contract for snow and ice removal, voted to buy a small excavator mainly for cemetery work, and approved more 10-minute-limit signs for parking in front of the post office.

D & M Landscaping of Versailles also bid on the snow-removal contract. Vandegrift complimented the firm, but said Wright has been doing the work for seven or eight years, and "I just don't see a reason, based on these quotes, to change horses in midstream. . . . I've never seen better roadways in any Kentucky city since we had Wright's Farm Service."

The excavator will be bought from Caterpillar for $89,388 over three years. The other bids were $103,950 from JCB and $72,900 for a Case excavator, but Vandegrift said the Caterpillar would probably be more cost-effective than the Case because it has lower fuel and maintenance costs and a higher resale value. He said city employee Nelson Wright, who got the bids, recommended Caterpillar.

Council Member Logan Nance moved to accept the Caterpillar bid and Council Member Sarah Hicks seconded the motion. All present voted for it; Council Member Mary Raglin was absent.

The extra 10-minute parking signs at the post office were the idea of Council Member Steve Simoff, who said "It's extremely busy and the traffic going by there is strong almost all day long."

The council was originally scheduled to have first reading of an ordinance annexing the Bluegrass Distillers property at the interchange, but Vandegrift said the city had not received all material it needs from the company.

Vandegrift gave the council cost estimates from the city's consulting engineer on maintenance of the city's water towers. The tower in Midway Station is due for rehabilitation that would last 25 years and cost $555,000, including $45,000 for engineering and $35,000 for inspection.

The mayor said the work would be "the most prudent use" of the $490,000 that the city is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act, the latest pandemic relief bill from Congress. On its own, the city would have to borrow to finance the project, he said.

The "Tin Man" tower downtown is no longer used, but is "a cultural icon for us" and needs painting, which would cost $400,000 because lead paint would have to be removed first. He said tearing down the tower would cost $100,000, and "I have absolutely no desire to see that thing torn down. . . . Down the road we do need to find a way to save this water tower, just as the icon that it is."

In the concluding roundtable, Council Member Stacy Thurman asked why the city had sent all water customers a letter saying that water cutoffs for nonpayment of bills, which have been suspended during the pandemic, would resume at end of October.

Vandegrift said he sent the letter when he realized that Midway was the only city in the region that had not resumed cutoffs, and "We do have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure folks are paying those bills, and we don't want folks to fall further and further behind."

He said 10 to 15 water customers are still in arrears. "Most folks have gotten their debts paid down through payment plans," he said. "If you're paying your bill and you're making progress, we don't cut you off."

Nance, noting that a batch of used syringes were found as part of a recent sewer backup, asked where used syringes can be disposed of. Murray suggested the Versailles hospital or the county health department, and said police also have sharps containers in their cruisers.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Attorneys for RV resort developers and opponents will speak to City Council Tuesday; traffic study expected

Developers' diagram shows roads and other features but not the concrete pads for recreational vehicles. Click it to enlarge.

The public forum on the proposed recreational-vehicle resort, which was to have been held Thursday evening, has been delayed due to the pandemic, but attorneys for the developers and opponents are still scheduled to address the Midway City Council during its meeting via Zoom on Tuesday evening.

The agenda for the council meeting includes Hank Graddy, representing Bluegrass Experience Resort Park, and Joe Childers of Lexington, representing opponents of the development along South Elkhorn Creek. Developers have asked the city to annex the property and provide water and sewer service.

Objections to the request have focused on the resort's planned size and its effect on traffic. Graddy told the council Aug. 2 that he would present the developers' traffic study and perhaps other studies. Since then, he has been seeking meetings with individual council members to discuss the issue.

Graddy said in an email Saturday that the developers reviewed the study Friday and asked for more details. He said they will get the finished study Tuesday morning and send it to the council and Mayor Grayson Vandegrift before the meeting. Vandegrift said he is also expecting an economic impact study.

The agenda also includes first reading of an ordinance to annex the Bluegrass Distillers property just south of the RV resort site. The meeting is being held Tuesday instead of Monday because of Labor Day. The meeting will be held by Zoom teleconference due to the pandemic, and will be livestreamed on the Midway Government Streaming Meetings page on Facebook.