Ky. Voices: Developer's appeal to build hotel ignores ruling, valid concerns

November 21, 2012 

Joseph Miller

Despite the strides Lexington has made to formulate a comprehensive plan to guide development and the many community discussions about a smart development vision for Lexington, it seems that neighborhoods must continue to remain vigilant in responding to inappropriate development proposals.

The neighborhoods adjacent to Southland Drive along Nicholasville Road are facing one such situation this month when developer Phil Greer will appeal the Planning Commission's disapproval of a proposed zoning change for his property behind the Denny's restaurant.

He is requesting a change from the current B-1 neighborhood business zone to a conditional B-3 highway business zone to allow for a five-story Hampton Inn hotel at that site. Those of us who are opposed to this zoning change were relieved when the Planning Commission, by a vote of 7-3, upheld the planning staff recommendation to disapprove. But we were not surprised by the developer's decision to appeal this to the council.

This hearing will take place Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. and we will once again voice our opposition to this proposed zoning change.

A majority of the residents of the neighborhoods that include Goodrich, Lackawanna, Wabash, Pensacola and Norfolk are opposed to the project and the zoning change for many of the same reasons the Planning Commission turned it down.

In its final report, it concluded that the "proposed zone change and the corollary development plan do not propose the appropriate buffering needed between a Highway Commercial land use and existing Low Density Residential land uses. The proposed hotel is located far closer to the nearest residences along Goodrich Avenue, when compared to other hotels developed over the past decade, which on average are located 800 feet from the nearest single-family residence."

The ruling also found "insufficient legal justification to meet the requirements of KRS 100.213 and Article 6-5 of the Zoning Ordinance" requiring the developer demonstrates that the existing zoning is inappropriate.

The case has lost on its merits, but an appeal to the full council is the right of the developer. Throughout this process, he has maintained we should be "elated" with a five-story hotel just 23 feet from the nearest property line on Goodrich Avenue.

His attorney has also made the case that a few neighbors welcome the "cleaning up" of a dilapidated property that is an "eyesore." Of course, that argument begs the question of why this property owned for the last eight years by Greer has remained in this state.

We do not know what his original plans were when he bought this B-1 property in 2004, but he certainly knew the zoning when he purchased it, just as the neighbors on the north side of Goodrich knew they had B-1 zoning behind them when they purchased their homes.

A few were impressed with the promise of an eight-foot fence separating their yards from this hotel, but clearly, that would not screen a five-story structure.

Further, contrary to his attorney's assertion at the first hearing, any B-1 redevelopment plan would require an adequate buffering zone, fence or hedgerow between it and the adjacent R-1 properties.

The 2008 infill and redevelopment plan calls for the Southland corridor to remain a B-1 zone and this zoning change to conditional B-3 would set a precedent for future zoning requests along that corridor, where Greer owns other properties as well.

In addition, now that there is a Hilton Home Suites in the works just a few blocks away behind Trader Joe's, we also question the need for such an endeavor at that location where the only access will be via the alley of Collins Lane or from Southland Drive. However, the neighborhood would welcome an appropriate B-1 neighborhood business at this site.

We believe that this issue goes beyond the boundaries of our neighborhood — it is a community issue. We are not anti-development, we just want appropriate development at that site that is consistent with the comprehensive plan, the Planning Commission ruling and the vision many have for a modern, walkable future for the Southland corridor with unique neighborhood businesses we would use.

We hope that the council will heed the recommendation of the Planning Commission where this proposal was thoroughly vetted and deny the appeal by the developer. Join us at the hearing if you have a stake in this issue.

Joseph Miller, a college professor, has lived in the Southland area since 1974.

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