Merlene Davis: Temporary salt barn location shouldn't be in my neighborhood or anyone else's

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 28, 2013 

I can just envision directing guests to my house by saying, "Drive down New Circle Road and turn at the three-story salt barn."

That's what seems to be in store if Lexington sees fit to put a temporary salt barn where the Continental Inn used to be.

Kevin Stinnett, 6th District councilman, said he has been opposed to the idea since it was first presented in early spring.

"I grew up in this neighborhood and it is a shame to have to fight this," he said.

The city plans to build a temporary storage barn for road salt on the vacant property at the corner of Eastland Parkway and New Circle Road. The structure would hold an overflow of about 3,500 tons of salt that won't fit in the current salt barn on Old Frankfort Pike, which also holds about 3,500 tons. Usually winters in Lexington require about 7,000 tons of salt to keep the roads clear.

Until now, the overflow has been stored under tarps behind the police canine facility on Old Frankfort Pike. But the tarps are leaking and endangering Town Branch, a body of water on which Lexington was founded and which runs underneath downtown.

The solution, according to the Environmental Quality and Public Works Commission and the 11 council members who voted in favor of it, is the former Continental Inn property. A resolution passed in July authorizing the city to lease the property for $18,000 a year.

The problem, however, according to me and other residents in the nearby neighborhood, is that we don't want it there.

Loys Mather, president of the Eastland Parkway Neighborhood Association, said he discovered the plan in passing while talking with Vice Mayor Linda Gorton in May.

"It was the first I had heard about it," he said.

He learned there had been discussions with Spencerian College, which backs up to the proposed site, and with the property owner, Glenncase, LLC. Only later was the neighborhood association approached.

"I thought that was a very bad process," Mather said, adding that the residents take a lot of pride in the neighborhood and recently planted flowers and placed benches at several corners and at the entrance from Winchester Road.

He said the city "zeroed in" on the Continental Inn property without seeking other bids.

"It was a runaway locomotive," he said.

The location is a few feet from a drainage area that feeds into a stream running through the neighborhood, he said, but "The city just spent $260,000 for water quality and erosion issues in that area and they did a beautiful job. Now they want to put a salt barn there."

Chris Ford, 1st District Councilman doesn't support the plan.

"It would be an institutional blight," he said. "I'm not convinced that the neighborhood concerns have been addressed properly. I hope the administration finds another location."

The association has battled Glenncase, LLC for years, trying to get it to clean up the area and demanding the removal of dozens and dozens of semis that found a resting place there for several months.

Adding a temporary structure that will stand about three stories high will only rub salt in our wounds.

Mather said the association has not spoken with Glenncase, LLC, which lists former Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan as manager and his daughter, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, as organizer, about this issue. Instead, he said, it is taking its concerns directly to city hall.

A large group of neighbors plan to attend Thursday's council meeting at 6 p.m. in hopes of derailing what seems inevitable and oh so wrong.

The land is zoned commercial, not industrial. Find an industrial site to store the pile of salt. Why would the city think it's OK to put that mess in a neighborhood? And what's the rush? George Milligan, construction supervisor for the Environmental Quality and Public Works Commission, told me the city has been looking for a site for the salt on the east side of Fayette County for 15 years.

The new permanent site for the salt barn will be in the Blue Sky Parkway area, an industrial site, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it must be completed by January, 2015.

Stinnett said he has found other possible sites, although he thinks city-owned property would be best. "I'm having to go find sites for them," he said. "You would have thought they would have gone out and done that."

I understand the city wants to put salt closer to roads that need clearing, but I don't understand why the wishes of my neighborhood have to be dumped on.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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