Lexington canopy tour owner files for zoning change to reopen business

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comDecember 3, 2013 

The owner of a controversial canopy tour business has filed applications for a zoning change and other permits with Lexington city planners in hopes of opening the now-shuttered operation.

Burgess Carey, who owns Boone Creek Outdoors, requested a zoning change last week from "agriculture rural" to "agriculture natural area" and asked for a conditional use permit for a commercial outdoor recreation area for the canopy tour.

The request will be put to a vote at the Jan. 30 planning commission meeting.

The city's planners have not decided whether to recommend the zoning change and conditional use permit. The recommendation probably will be discussed at two Jan. 9 subcommittee hearings of the planning commission.

Carey and the city have been at odds for more than two years over the operation of canopy tours on his property off Interstate 75 and Old Richmond Road. The property abuts the Kentucky River.

In August, a Fayette Circuit Court judge ordered Boone Creek to quit offering the canopy tours, saying the company had to comply with a conditional-use permit the city issued for the property in 2000. The court decision came after the Board of Adjustment filed an injunction in July against Boone Creek, ordering it to stop its canopy tours and discontinue advertising.

City officials argued that the 2000 conditional use permit issued to Boone Creek never mentioned platforms, zip lines, trails or canopy tours, which Boone Creek operates.

In 2012, the Board of Adjustment rejected plans for Carey to expand his operations to include a 167-acre recreation center that included a canopy tour. Carey later scaled down his plans and built the canopy tour without pursuing other zoning changes. His lawyers argued that the 2000 conditional use permit did not prohibit canopy tours.

Carey stopped the canopy tours after the court order in August, said Richard Murphy, a lawyer for Boone Creek.

The Boone Creek Canopy Tour will feature "spectacular scenery from dramatic perspectives, highlighting the limestone palisades," according to Boone Creek's application. The tour would use seven zip lines, three sky bridges and a floating staircase.

Originally opened as a fishing club, Boone Creek is seeking to expand to include the canopy tours and more outdoor education activities. In addition, the group wants to change the former Jolly Roger gas station on the property into a welcome center for visitors. A letter with the application says Boone Creek has plans to act as an education and training center for canopy tour guides and builders.

The canopy structure has been inspected by third parties and is insured, the application says.

The state of Kentucky does not inspect zip line rides.

The zoning change and the outdoor recreational use permit ought to allow Carey to reopen his canopy tour business under Fayette County's zoning laws, Murphy said.

Most Fayette County farmland is zoned agriculture rural, Murphy said. The agricultural nature area designation is more appropriate for Boone Creek Outdoor and its use, he said.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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