For the third time in 23 years, a proposal to develop a 10-acre tract near Fayette Mall and Shillito Park was shot down late Thursday by Lexington officials.
After a hearing of more than three hours, the Lexington Urban County Council voted unanimously Thursday to deny a zone change from agricultural urban to residential for 10.4 acres at 3455 Saybrook Road, between the Monticello and Robinwood subdivisions. Lex Properties LLC had proposed putting 27 houses on the land that once held a private sewage treatment plant and was once managed by the city as a park. The parcel is inside Man o’ War Boulevard near Boston Road.
Jacob Walbourn, a lawyer who represents Lex Properties, said after Thursday’s vote that it was too early to say what his client would do next.
“We are extremely disappointed that the council has sought to overturn the zone change that the planning commission voted to approve 8 to 1,” Walbourn said.
In more than two decades, three housing developments have been proposed on the nearly rectangular parcel since the sewage treatment plant was closed in the late 1980s. In 1994, Ball Homes proposed building 22 houses there, but the project was pulled because an environmental assessment raised red flags, neighbors say.
In 2015, Lex Properties, the owner of the land, proposed building 27 houses. The Urban County Planning Commission voted to 8-1 to deny the zone change in August 2015. But the developer never sent the zone change to the council, which has final approval.
Lex Properties returned to the planning commission with a different development plan that included 15 single-family houses and 17 townhomes in November. But the commission ultimately decided to nix the townhomes and reverted to the original plan.
Bill Sallee, the city’s planning manager, told the council during Thursday’s hearing that city planning staff had not recommended approval of the zone change in 2015 or in 2016. The staff wanted houses spaced farther apart on bigger lots, as required in a lower-density R-1 zone.
Walbourn, however, told the council Thursday that the lot sizes Lex Properties proposed were similar in size to what is required for an R-1 zone. Roughly half of the 10 acres is in a floodplain, where houses can’t be built. That means the developer needs some flexibility in the lot sizes to fit the houses on the land, he said.
An environmental study of the soil showed no contamination from the former sewage treatment plant that once served the surrounding neighborhoods, he said.
“There are no environmental concerns on this site according to an independent laboratory,” Walbourn said.
More than 30 people opposed to the development attended Thursday’s public hearing.
Many said the developer wanted to put too much development in a small area. The R-3 zone would allow for too many houses.
Robin Young, a resident of Robinwood subdivision, said Robinwood and Monticello have “three homes per acre while the developer could have 20 homes per acre.”
Evan Belt, who said he lives 500 feet from the proposed development, said 400 people have signed a petition opposing the development. Saybrook Road can’t accommodate the additional traffic, Belt said. Saybrook currently dead-ends into the property.
“Adding density would create parking and traffic problems,” he said.
Scott Warner said his house has been flooded with sewage five times since 1998. More than a dozen people who attended Thursday’s hearing said, they, too had had sewage in their houses or flooding problems.
If 27 more houses are built there, “I fear my sewage problems will get worse,” Warner said.
Walbourn, the Lex Properties attorney, said the development can’t get a building permit unless city officials sign off on the plan. There is capacity in the sewage treatment plants for additional development.
Many members of the council said they thought the planning staff’s recommendations for an R-1 zone were more appropriate for the land, given the floodplain that goes through much of the property.