Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark on Friday declined to issue an injunction that would have stopped construction work on South Limestone in Lexington.
The South Limestone Business Owners Association had sought the injunction because, they contended, the work was irreparably damaging their businesses. The association filed suit Thursday against the city of Lexington.
Although Clark did not stop the construction, he did say he expects the city to uphold its obligations to the business owners.
The city previously committed to allowing one lane of South Limestone to remain open for deliveries and pedestrian access to the businesses.
David Royse, attorney representing the city and Mayor Jim Newberry, noted that the lawsuit was filed barely 24 hours after construction on the major project began Wednesday.
"This is a complicated project," he said. "The city should be given a chance to respond as problems arise."
He called it "disingenuous" for the plaintiffs to try to halt a $17 million project because on the first day a delivery truck and an electrician had problems reaching one of the businesses.
One of the plaintiffs, David Jones, a property owner and partner in the Soundbar lounge at 208 South Limestone, testified that in a meeting just days before construction, the city specifically promised that one lane of local traffic would remain open.
That, he said, had not happened.
Other businesses owners said that they were never given written notice of the street closing and that the city had been unresponsive to their concerns.
Rip Sudu, owner of Bombay Brazier at 102 West High Street, said the work site outside his restaurant was left dirty at night, creating so much dust that customers could not dine at his sidewalk tables. In good weather, outdoor diners constitute 50 percent of his business, he said.
Judge Clark said remedies to all these complaints "are easily attainable" as long as the city does what it said it would do, and "plaintiffs are reasonable."
"All these things are rather minor in the bigger scope of the project," he said.
While there have been inconveniences, Clark said he had not heard any testimony that businesses had suffered "irreparable damage" that made granting an injunction necessary.
While some deliveries were late, none were canceled. The judge said he hopes delivery drivers can plan alternative routes.
The city has appointed a project manager, George Milligan, to be on site daily to work with businesses and the contractor.
Also, a Web site — southlimestoneprogress.com — has been activated, publishing progress reports about the Limestone project.
"A mechanism is in place through Mr. Milligan to resolve issues that develop in the course of the project," Clark said.
The judge reminded the plaintiffs that denying the temporary injunction "does not preclude subsequent filings in the future" if they think their businesses are suffering "irreparable harm."
Outside the courtroom, Joe Graviss, who owns the McDonald's on South Limestone, said he was "glad to hear the judge say he expects the city" to stick to its commitments.
Jones said of the ruling: "It was certainly not unreasonable."
"We never wanted to stop the project. We just wanted the promises the city made to be enforced," Jones said. Newberry released a statement calling the South Limestone overhaul a difficult project and saying: "There will continue to be headaches and inconveniences, especially for the people who live or work on the corridor. We will continue to work with all of the South Limestone businesses every day to do whatever we can reasonably do to support them."