The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of a Clark County judge to allow land to be rezoned for an underground quarry in the county.
Judges Allison Jones, Sara Combs and Joy Kramer agreed Friday with Clark Circuit Judge William Clouse Jr.’s 2015 decision that supported the Clark County Fiscal Court’s approval to rezone 165 acres of agricultural land to allow Allen Co. to reopen a closed underground limestone quarry.
Now, the Southwest Clark Neighborhood Association, a group that opposes the rezoning and quarry, must file a petition within 20 days of the decision if it wishes for a rehearing, modification or extension of the opinion. If the group wishes for the opinion to be reviewed by the state Supreme Court, it has 30 days.
Deborah Garrison, president of the Southwest Clark Neighborhood Association, said the group hasn’t determined the next course of action, but she said the quarry could harm Clark County’s tourism potential and the historical value of the area. If reopened, the quarry will be near Boonesborough, a community in Madison County founded by Daniel Boone.
“We are still opposed to the rezone as well as the rock quarry,” she said.
The controversy dates to 2014 when the Lexington-based Allen Co., a road construction and asphalt paving contractor with several quarries in Central Kentucky, sought to rezone land near the Kentucky River in Clark County, near the Madison County line.
Under the company’s plan, rock would be crushed underground in Clark County and then transported by conveyor belt over Athens-Boonesboro Road and the Kentucky River to an existing crushing yard in Madison County, which the Allen Co. also owns. The conveyor is intended to lessen the use of large trucks traveling roads in the area.
In July 2014, after a planning and zoning commission meeting in which the rezoning request was denied, the Clark County Fiscal Court approved an ordinance which allowed for the land rezone, overruling the commission’s recommendation.
Later that month, the Southwest Clark Neighborhood Association sued Clark Fiscal Court and the Winchester-Clark County Planning Commission, its members and the Allen Company.
The lawsuit asked a judge conclude that fiscal court’s action was contrary to the county’s comprehensive plan, which is a guideline for land use in the county. Opponents hoped the lawsuit would reverse the Clark County Fiscal Court’s decision.
However the group lost the suit in 2015, leading to the appeal.
In the appeal’s court’s opinion, the judges agreed, among other findings, that the Clark County Fiscal Court did not need to amend the comprehensive plan nor zoning regulations to approve the rezoning ordinance.
If the Southwest Clark Neighborhood Association decides to let the Court of Appeals’ opinion stand, there is still the matter of the development plan, which includes a conveyor across the Kentucky River and other aspects of how the company would develop the quarry.
Hank Graddy, who represents the neighborhood group, said that when the rezoing request was denied, the development plan was never considered by the planning commission.
The planning commission and Clark County Fiscal Court must approve the plan before any development can take place.
John Rompf, who represents the Allen Co, said there are other regulatory aspects to operating a quarry: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must approve the conveyor belt, and the company must comply with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“There’s just a lot of permitting going on when you’re in the mining business,” he said.
Garrison said her group plans to oppose the quarry every step of the way. “We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” she said.
The full decision by the Court of Appeals can be read online.