Neighbors of a zipline and canopy tour want a board that oversees Fayette County land preservation to investigate whether some of the zipline platforms are on land that is part of the county’s Purchase of Development Rights program.
After nearly five years and multiple lawsuits, the Urban County Planning Commission voted unanimously in November to grant Burgess Carey, the owner of Boone Creek Properties, a zone change and a conditional-use permit that would allow him to reopen his now shuttered canopy and zipline tour near Interstate 75 and Old Richmond Road. The zone change must still be approved by the Urban County Council.
Opponents of Carey’s zipline operation urged the Rural Land Management Board during its Monday meeting to investigate whether some of the lines and platforms are on a neighboring property, owned by John Park. The Purchase of Development Rights program, or PDR, buys the development rights for farmland. Park donated his land into the program in 2006, which means he was not paid for his development rights.
Most commercial development is not allowed on PDR property. The Rural Land Management Board oversees the PDR program and is tasked with enforcement of conservation easements.
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Greg Bibb, chairman of the board, said during Monday’s meeting that the board will not hear the issue until a survey of the land was completed. Those who oppose the zipline operation spoke at the board’s November meeting urging the board to weigh in on the issue.
Don Todd, a lawyer who represents the neighbors who have opposed the zipline operation, said they had hoped that the board would make a decision before the council holds a public hearing on Jan. 19, when Carey’s zone change will get a final vote.
Richard Murphy, a lawyer who represents Carey, told the board during the meeting Monday that Carey has paid for a survey of his land. Murphy said it’s not clear how long that survey will take to complete or if it will be completed before the Jan. 19 meeting.
Murphy said two years ago a similar complaint was made and it was investigated by staff. No violation was found.
“Your attorneys were back out walking the property last month,” Murphy said. “Mr. Carey at his expense is getting this survey. If it turns out that one of the platforms is on Mr. Park’s property, it will be moved.”
Carey and Park both say that the platforms are on Carey’s property. But the description of the property in their deeds is old, and that can make boundary lines tricky.
Frank Penn, who serves on the board and the planning commission, asked why Carey was paying for the survey. Carey said he thought Park was being unfairly maligned.
“I don’t want my neighbor to be harassed,” Carey said, adding that helicopters have flown over his property in recent months.
Tracy Jones, a lawyer for the planning department, said she has spoken to Park. Park doesn’t think any of the platforms are on his land. But Jones said Park has promised to remove any of the platforms if the survey finds that they are on his land. Jones said the PDR issue is separate from Carey’s zone change before the council.
Carey’s efforts to open the canopy tour have spawned multiple lawsuits and changes to Fayette County's zoning ordinance.
Carey was ordered to shut down his canopy tours by a Fayette Circuit Court judge in 2013. The judge ruled that Carry didn’t have the appropriate sign-offs to operate a canopy tour. Carey applied in September 2014 for a zoning change and a conditional-use permit. The commission then approved the zoning change but deadlocked 5-5 on the conditional-use permit.
Because the commission didn’t deny Carey’s request, he was allowed to reapply a year later.
Over the past several years, the merged government made changes to its zoning ordinance to make it clear where adventure and recreation businesses could operate.
Carey’s latest application was filed under the new zoning ordinance.